SBS: Hakeem Al-Araibi: Bahrain condemns 'external interference' as it files extradition papers

January 29,2019

Bahrain's Interior Ministry confirmed that it has filed documents for the extradition of detained refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi, while also lashing out at "intolerable" external interference.

The application to Thai officials aims to relocate the Melbourne-based footballer from the Thai prison he has been held in for more than 60 days. 

The footballer has been detained by Thai authorities since arriving in Bangkok on his honeymoon November 27 over a now-lifted Interpol red notice.

Interior Minister General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa criticised parties that are advocating for Hakeem Al-Araibi's release.

"External interference in the internal affairs of Bahrain is unacceptable," he said in a statement.

"Those raising unfounded doubts about the integrity and independence of the Kingdom's judicial system are not only interfering, but also attempting to influence the course of justice," he said, insisting that he a case to answer on charges for allegedly vandalising a police station during the Arab Spring in 2012.

Al-Araibi, 25, was sentenced to 10 years' jail in absentia, despite submitting evidence he was playing football at the time of the alleged crime.

Hakeem faces potential death sentence

The Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights issued a statement on Tuesday, saying the Bahraini footballer's life would be in peril if he is extradited. 

"Bahraini courts issued harsh sentences today, including death sentences against political detainees and life sentences against the opposition leader," GIDHR president Yahya Alhadid said in a statement.

"This is a serious indicator of what is waiting for Hakeem if extradited back to Bahrain.

"It is FIFA's duty today to use its authority and put an end to this gentlemen's suffering.

"We also call on Thailand not to respond to the extradition request and to keep their international obligations not to send anyone to a state or country where they might face torture."

Al-Araibi asked on Monday from Bangkok Remand Prison why he was there.

"Why has Bahrain followed me? It's 2019, it's not 100 years ago, we have human rights now. Please keep fighting for me, please do everything you can," he urged.

Hakeem 'anxious, afraid'

Evan Jones from the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network, who briefed Al-Araibi on Monday on the growing international groundswell of support for his cause, said the footballer was still anxious and afraid.

His main source of information on his case is from Australian Embassy staff, who have longer access visits than the usual 15 minutes per day, and his lawyer.

"He has no access to a newspaper, television or telephone," Jones said.

He said Al-Araibi desperately wanted to hear from his wife who has returned to Australia but an email she sent in Arabic didn't make it through the prison's computer system.

Jones said Al-Araibi still looked "healthy and strong" and had enough money to buy food. But the footballer shares a small cell with 50 others. "He's really worried about getting sick, the conditions aren't good in there," Jones said.

Al-Araibi and many of his supporters believe he has been targeted by Bahrain for speaking out against Sheikh Salman al-Khalifa, the president of the Asian Football Confederation who refused to help the footballer.

Former Socceroos captain Craig Foster has presented FIFA with a petition with 50,000 signatures and supporting documents demanding the sport's governing body help secure al-Araibi's immediate release.