News4Europe: Extradition request for Bahraini refugee reaches Thai court amid protests

February 01,2019

Prosecutors on Friday submitted an official request to a Bangkok court over the extradition of a detained Bahraini refugee soccer player as activists in Australia held protests and called for sporting sanctions and expulsions against Thailand and Bahrain.

Hakeem al-Araibi, 25, has been ordered to appear at Bangkok’s Criminal Court on Monday morning where he will be asked whether or not he is willing to be sent back to Bahrain, his lawyer Nadthasiri Bergman told EFE.

Araibi, a former Bahraini national soccer player and Australian resident and recognized refugee, was detained on Nov. 27 upon arrival from Melbourne to Bangkok with his wife.

He has been held at Bangkok Remand Prison while the court considers deporting him to Bahrain, where he fears for his life and where he says he was once tortured. He is accused of vandalizing a police station there, which he denies.

His case took on more urgency earlier this week after Bahrain submitted to Thai authorities an official request and documentation for his extradition.

The Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (GIDHR) on Friday said that its “sources reported that #Thai prosecutors asked the court to approve the request, despite the non-existence of a mutual extradition treaty between the 2 countries, because #Bahrain promised reciprocal treatment of Thais in the future,” in a tweet.

“The information indicated the possibility of approving the extradition request, as Al-Araibi’s offences are illegal under the #Thai law, and are not political or military offences,” it added.

Scores of protesters in Melbourne’s Federation Square and the Sydney Opera House rallied Friday demanding the release of Araibi and all prisoners of conscience.

“Thailand should know there are repercussions to taking any decision that is contrary to international law,” ex-Australian soccer captain Craig Foster said at the Sydney protest.

He also called for FIFA and the Olympic committee to issue sporting sanctions and expulsions over the advancement of Araibi’s Monday hearing.

“There can be few greater displays of utter disregard for not only human rights, but the directives of @FIFAcom @Olympics. Next step is expulsion from international sport,” he said on Twitter.

"@FIFAcom @Olympics must be talking sanctions in the next week and reviewing membership of international sport,” he added.

Using the hashtag #SaveHakeem on Thursday, Thailand’s immigration chief Surachate Hakparn weighed in on the case on social media, reiterating that it is the court that will decide whether Araibi will be returned to Bahrain or Australia.

He said Thailand is doing “everything according to the human rights principles and the rule of law,” and added that Araibi was taken into custody “because of arrest warrants from both of interpol and Bahraini government.”

The Interpol red notice was issued erroneously, contradicting Interpol’s own policy that they will not be applied against recognized refugees.

GIDHR president Yahya Alhadid tweeted Friday that "exposing an individual to the risk of sending him back to a country which he fled and might face torture is a violation for the international human rights covenants.”

Araibi has been detained for 67 days since his arrest.