Bahraini Refugee Footballer Could Be Jailed in Thailand until August

Hakeem al-Araibi: FFA pledges money in bid for footballer's return

Activists campaigning for his release suggest that the footballer should never even have been detained; an worldwide warrant was issued for Al-Araibi's arrest as he flew to Bangkok although such red notice requests are not meant for refugees.

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne called on Thai authorities to use their discretion in Araibi's case.

"Thailand's office of the Attorney-General has publicly confirmed that Thailand's Extradition Act allows for executive discretion in such cases".

Senator Payne said she had also encouraged Bahrain's government not to to proceed with the extradition.

Craig Foster, a former captain for the Australia national men's football team who has been lobbying for al-Araibi's release, shouted words of encouragement to the jailed player.

The Foreign Ministry statement appeared to be a defensive response to the nearly daily public appeals Thailand has been receiving asking for al-Araibi's release.

On Monday, al-Araibi told a court in Thailand's capital that he refused to be voluntarily extradited to Bahrain.

"They want to send me back to Bahrain". All of Australia is with you.

It said the footballer would have the chance to appeal in its own domestic courts.

A former player for Bahrain's national football team, al-Araibi has spoken out about a senior Bahraini official's alleged torture of footballers who had participated in demonstrations. He has been living in Melbourne, where he plays for a semi-professional soccer team.

Al-Araibi claims he was tortured following the Arab Spring protests and was later sentenced to 10 years in prison for vandalising a police station, even though he was playing in a televised match at the time.

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Later, al-Araibi fled to Australia where he was recognised as a refugee in 2017.

He was arrested by Thai authorities on November 27 at Bahrain's request.

However, Araibi has said he believes he is being targeted over his criticism of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa, a member of Bahrain's ruling family.

Chatchom Akapin, director-general for global affairs at the Office of the Attorney-General, said several foreign defendants had jumped bail and did not show up in court.

"Thailand is highly culpable for Hakeem's detention and still has the power at any point to bypass the court proceedings and make a decision to send him home to Australia".

Hakeem al-Araibi leaves the criminal court in Bangkok.

Thai officials previously said the process could be lengthy, depending on how many witnesses each side call.

The bureau has asked Australian authorities to send documents regarding Mr Araibi's refugee status in Australia, and the reasons why it is against his extradition so that Thai authorities will forward them to the court for consideration, the source said.

Federico Addiechi, a representative of FIFA, football's world governing body, also attended Monday's hearing and said the organization will continue to support al-Araibi.

Danthong Breen from the Union for Civil Liberty who helped organise the letter said it was unique as it involved local NGOs and was not driven by global groups such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch. He denies the charges.

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