Nine News: Bahrain seeking extradition of Melbourne based refugee footballer detained in Thailand

January 29,2019

Bahrain has submitted an application to Thai officials for the extradition of Melbourne-based refugee Hakeem al-Araibi.

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

The Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights has issued a statement, saying the Bahrain government had lodged a formal request for al-Araibi's extradition 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.

"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.

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 Socceroo Craig Foster, who has galvanised support for al-Araibi around the world, will hold a press conference in Zurich after meeting with FIFA general-secretary Fatma Samoura and World Players' Association head Brendan Schwab.

Foster 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.