Sports

Thailand to process extradition request for refugee soccer player

A Thai court has issued an arrest warrant for a soccer player with refugee status in Australia who has been detained in Bangkok, paving the way for a hearing into Bahrain's request to extradite him.

Key points:

  • FIFA has supported calls for Mr AlAraibi to be allowed to return to Australia
  • Mr AlAraibi says he is still waiting to be told what is happening and is worried
  • Thailand has a poor record of deporting people to countries where they face danger

Hakeem Ali AlAraibi said he feared he would be tortured and killed if he is sent to Bahrain because he has criticised a relative of the royal family.

The former Bahraini national soccer team player fled his homeland in 2015, and the government convicted him in absentia of vandalising a police station — a charge Mr AlAraibi strongly denies.

A clerk told the ABC the Bangkok Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Mr AlAraibi after a prosecutor lodged a request on Friday morning.

Human rights workers confirmed that Bahrain's extradition request will be considered by the court.

However, the ABC understands that Mr AlAraibi will not immediately be extradited and will not be taken to court today.

Thailand's top immigration police officer Major General Surachet Hakpal said there would be a hearing to determine whether an extradition will go ahead.

He said there was no need to worry about Mr AlAraibi's living conditions.

A group of seven campaigners holding #saveHakeem posters look to the camera during protest.

"Immigration police have provided him with halal meals three times a day every day," he said.

"We also take care of his wife.

"We have him stay in a nice room and Australian Embassy officers has been taking care of him[sic]. He is allowed visitors all the time."

Hakeem AlAraibi told the ABC he feared for his life.

"Still waiting, no one tells me anything … I am so worried now," Mr AlAraibi told the ABC on Friday.

"I'm so tired now and don't know what is going to happen."

Mr AlAraibi's wife is with him at the immigration centre but is not being detained.

Thailand is not a signatory to the United Nation Convention of Refugees, and has a poor record when it comes to deporting refugees and asylum seekers back to countries where they face danger.

"The fact that the Thai Government is even considering the extradition request from the Bahrain government is deeply disgraceful," said Sussi Prapakranant, programme officer at the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN).

"Returning Mr AlAraibi to Bahrain would almost certainly have disastrous consequences, and violate the obligations of the Thai Government under customary international law."

Support from the sporting world

Mr AlAraibi's case has caught the attention of FIFA, which has urged Football Federation Australia to urgently lobby the Australian Government for help.

"FIFA expects the situation of Mr AlAraibi to be solved in accordance with well-established international standards," it said in a statement.

"FIFA supports the calls for the Thai authorities to allow Mr AlAraibi to return to Australia."

The Pascoe Vale Football Club, for which Mr AlAraibi plays, has written a letter to Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha strongly urging the Thai Government to protect his fundamental rights to liberty and security.

"He should not be forcibly returned to Bahrain, a country from which he has escaped persecution and fears return," it read.

"Mr AlAraibi first began playing with Pascoe Vale FC mid-season last year, and truly demonstrated his worth as a defensive force.

"Mr Al Araibi is a highly-motivated, resilient and in all aspects a team player and well-respected in the football world in Australia."

Original Article