Hakeem al-Araibi: Thailand blames Australia for refugee footballer's plight

Hakeem al-Araibi: Thailand blames Australia for refugee footballer's plight

Hakeem al-Araibi: Thailand blames Australia for refugee footballer's plight

Thai newspaper The Nation reported that Football Federation Australia (FFA) cancelled an under-23 training trip to Thailand in protest of the kingdom's continuing detention of Araibi.

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.

"Australia's national teams are united in their support for Hakeem al-Araibi and we call on the community to continue to campaign for his release", Australia coach Graham Arnold said.

Thailand on Wednesday defended its arrest of a Bahraini footballer with refugee status in Australia, saying officials only detained him because Australian authorities sent an Interpol "red notice" after he boarded a plane to Bangkok.

Pressure is mounting on Thailand to release al-Araibi from all corners of the sporting world, with a number of high-profile European players like Giorgio Chiellini and Jamie Vardy lending their social media backing to a cause which is already being pushed by FFA, FIFA, the AFC, the IOC and FIFPro, the global players' union.

On Monday, Mr Araibi told the Criminal Court he refuses to be voluntarily extradited to Bahrain, which has asked for his return to serve a prison sentence for a crime he denies committing.

Australia's Home Affairs office confirmed in December that federal police had advised Thai authorities a person with a red notice was on the way to Thailand, but did not say if the bureau was aware al-Araibi had refugee status.

Al-Araibi shouted: "Don't send me to Bahrain" as he was taken through the court at his appearance on Monday.

The AFC has been criticised for its handling of the case as President Shaikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa has a conflict of interest owing to his stature within Bahrain's royal family.

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The 25-year-old was convicted in absentia on charges of vandalizing a police station in Bahrain, but says he was out of the country playing in a match at the time of the alleged offence.

Thailand said previously that it was acting on an Interpol Red Notice request from Bahrain.

Craig Foster, a former captain of Australia's Socceroos, added: "It's obvious to the world that this is a politically motivated case, this is about retribution from Bahrain to Hakeem who spoke up against the government and others". "Be strong. Football is with you", Foster said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has in recent weeks has spoken out strongly on behalf of al-Araibi's freedom.

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

"Under such circumstances, Thailand has no other legitimate option but to cooperate in accordance with the law and suggest that the two countries, both good friends of Thailand and good friends with one another, talk to each other to sort out their problems and come up with their own solution, instead of trying to find an indirect solution from Thailand, who has only become involved in this case by chance". He has claimed that he will be tortured and imprisoned should he be handed over to Bahrain by the Thai authorities.

Bahrain's embassy in Bangkok said al-Araibi was a fugitive who should be returned.

Thai officials have indicated that there could be action taken by the executive branch of government, but only after the extradition case has gone through the courts.

Laying out the main argument at Wednesday's news conference, it said that "Thailand does not gain anything from holding Mr. Hakeem in custody".

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