Rights group pushes for release of Bahraini footballer
By The Nation
AMNESTY International Australia has called on Thailand to release Hakeem al-Araibi, a former Bahraini national footballer and now an Australian resident, who was detained at Suvarnabhumi Airport as he was wanted under an Interpol notice.
“Hakeem will not be safe until he is back on Australian soil. His life will be in danger if he is deported to Bahrain,” Diana Sayed, a campaigner for Amnesty International Australia, said.
As a recognised refugee with approved travel documents, al-Araibi should never have been detained by Thai authorities. Yet he remains in detention despite Interpol’s red notice having been lifted.
“Thai immigration must release him and allow him to come home to Australia,” the statement issued on Tuesday read.
Travelling on his Australian passport, al-Araibi was detained on November 27 with his wife upon arrival in Bangkok.
According to the statement, al-Araibi had been sentenced to a year in prison in an unjust trial in Bahrain in 2014. He was arrested in 2012 and convicted two years later in absentia on charges of vandalising a police station as part of a government crackdown on Arab Spring-inspired protests.
He fled to Australia and was granted refugee status in 2017.
Before being arrested in 2012, he spoke out as a former player of Bahrain’s national soccer team, criticising a senior Bahraini official’s practice of torturing footballers who participated in demonstrations.
He has spoken publicly about his torture, stating “They blindfolded me … [and] beat my legs really hard, saying: ‘You will not play soccer again. We will destroy your future’,” the statement read.
His detention at Suvarnabhumi Airport followed an Interpol Red Notice against him – issued by Bahrain on the basis of the criminal conviction against him in 2014.
“The Australian government have recognised the need to give Hakeem al-Araibi and his family refuge from persecution in Bahrain.
“The Thai government must recognise and respect his status as a refugee and send the family back to Australia – or risk sending him to a horrible fate in Bahrain,” Amnesty insisted.
The Australian Embassy in Bangkok has also contacted Immigration police chief Pol Lt-General Surachet Hakparn, calling for the release of al-Araibi.
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