Thailand blames Australia for arrest of refugee Bahraini footballer

Erika Holt
February 9, 2019

Trumph Jalichandra, who is also a deputy secretary-general of the Office of the Attorney-General, said his office received a request from the Bahraini government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Dec 3 past year for the extradition of Hakeem al-Araibi, who fled criminal charges related to the 2011 Arab Spring protests against Bahrain's government.

In a statement on Wednesday, Football Federation Australia said it had cancelled the game against China, a friendly match before next month's qualifiers for the Asian under-23 championships.

The case of a refugee Bahraini footballer held in a Thai prison and fighting extradition to his home country, will be decided in the courts and not by the government, a spokesperson for the Thai Attorney-General has said.

Al-Araibi, who fled Bahrain in 2014, has been detained in Thailand since he was arrested in November and campaigners are pleading for him to be sent back to Australia, where he has refugee status.

Hakeem AlAraibi and Rahaf Alqunun are two different cases, the head of Thai immigration said Monday as pressure mounts for Thailand to free the former rather than extradite him to Bahrain.

In his first letter, Morrison called for Thailand to send al-Araibi back to Australia.

"Given. that he is a permanent resident of our country, on the pathway to citizenship, we have encouraged the Bahraini government not to proceed with the extradition application, and we have encouraged the Thai government to exercise the discretion that they have available to them", she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation from the Solomon Islands.

Australia has appealed to Thailand to release Mr al-Araibi immediately.

Bahrain this week issued a statement defending its decision to pursue al-Araibi after he allegedly fled while awaiting trial. "Indeed, we would not have become involved in the issue had we not received the Red Notice alert from the Australian Interpol and the subsequent formal request by Bahrain for his arrest and extradition", it said.

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Former Australian football captain Craig Foster along with a group who has been campaigning for Araibi's release were present at the court to lend support to the embattled player.

"The smile when he heard about [Chiellini] and [Drogba], never seen anything like it - a footballer's passion never dies", Foster wrote.

"I would be very disappointed if as a result of how this was handled that that relationship between the Thai and Australian people were affected", he told reporters in Melbourne on Wednesday.

She said this was also confirmed by prosecutors at yesterday's hearing.

"And it is [neither] political offense nor military offense, and it has not fallen into any exception", said spokesman Trumph Jalichandra.

The statement suggested that Australia and Bahrain talk with each other to work out a mutually acceptable agreement on al-Araibi's fate, rather than have a Thai court decide it.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne reiterated her government's call for the Thai government to release al-Araibi so he can return home to Australia.

Thailand's Attorney-General is expected to hold a news briefing on the case.

"The court will consider this case thoroughly and in accordance with the due process of law and the evidence provided, including Bahrain's arrest warrant and court order for Mr Hakeem, who had been convicted under Bahraini laws".

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