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04th Feb 2019

Refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi pleads not to be sent to Bahrain before extradition hearing

Wayne Farry

Hakeem al-Araibi

The footballer was arrested in Thailand after travelling to the country on his honeymoon, and has remained in custody there ever since

The Australian refugee Hakeem al-Araibi was caught on camera pleading not to be sent back to Bahrain as he arrived a Thai court ahead of an extradition hearing in Bangkok.

The 25-year-old arrived at Bangkok’s Ratchadaphisek criminal court barefoot and shackled on Monday morning before a hearing which saw a judge deny him bail.

The decision of the judge means that al-Araibi, who has been in custody for 10 weeks since being arrested alongside his wife upon their arrival to Thailand, will likely spend another 60 days in a Thai jail.

“Don’t send me back to Bahrain,” he shouted as he entered the court. “Australia is with you” and “Your wife sends her love” were the messages heard from supporters.

Al-Araibi was arrested while on his honeymoon on November after Interpol issued a “red notice” seeking his arrest at the request of the Bahrain government. Such notices are not supposed to be given to refugees.

The footballer, who plays in Australia for Melbourne football club Pascoe Vale, has been an open critic of Bahrain and its human rights record – as well as the Asian Football Confederation (AFC)’s Bahraini President, Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa and was granted refugee status in Australia in 2017.

Bahrain seeks his extradition over vandalism charges dating back to 2012. He was arrested and held for three months at the time after being accused of vandalising a police station during a protest.

CNN reports that al-Araibi claims he was released after presenting evidence that he was playing football live on television at the time of the alleged act.

His detention in Thailand has provoked widespread international support in his favour. FIFPro, the global representative organisation for footballers, has been central in attempts to see Hakeem returned to Australia, while Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) has called on both FIFA and the AFC to exercise their power to help him.

His case has also been raised by Labour MP Dr. Rosena Allin-Khan, who confirmed via a tweet that she had asked Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to act in aiding the footballer “escape torture”.