Three Bahraini human rights organizations said that the life of Bahraini footballer and political refugee Hakeem al-Araibi will be in serious danger if the Thai authorities handed him over to the Bahraini government, which is involved in torturing prisoners, extrajudicial killings and issuing malicious death sentences. The organizations noted that they are aware of the seriousness of the extradition of a political refugee, who criticized a member of the ruling family in Bahrain.
The three human rights organizations, Salam for Democracy and Human Rights, the Bahrain Forum for Human Rights and the Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, called on the Thai authorities to respect the international law, which prohibits handing over a person to a state when there is fear for his safety from being subjected to torture. The organizations also demanded the Australian government and the United Nations to continue to exert their efforts to urge the Thai authorities to immediately and unconditionally release al-Araibi and allow him to travel to Australia.
The organizations said that on the evening of December 6, Hakeem al-Araibi learned that the Thai authorities intended to push forward the date of his trial to the morning of December 7 instead of the date of which he was previously notified, December 14! The Thai judiciary had decided to start his deportation proceedings and issue an arrest warrant against him. On the same evening, al-Araibi was arrested from inside the detention center and taken to an unknown prison, where he declared his hunger strike in protest of the unfair decisions against him.
The human rights organizations pointed out the involvement of the Thai authorities in the prosecution of al-Araibi, who is recognized by the United Nations as a political refugee. They also referred to a statement issued by an official at the Thai Immigration Department, in an interview with BBC Bangkok on December 5, saying that the Bahraini authorities were aware of Hakeem al-Araibi’s trip to Thailand, and they coordinated with the Thai Foreign Ministry to arrest him immediately after his arrival, although Thailand’s former statement had said that Hakeem’s arrest was due to a red notice from the Interpol.
The organizations also pointed out that in December 2014, the Thai authorities handed over detainee Ali Haroun to Bahrain despite the marks of torture and shotgun wounds on his body. He was subjected to severe torture after being handed over to Bahrain and is currently imprisoned!
The organizations explained that al-Araibi was one of the most prominent critics of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President, the cousin of the King of Bahrain and member of the ruling family, “Salman Ibrahim Al Khalifa,” during his candidacy for the presidency of the FIFA in 2016. Al-Araibi had spoken to the New York Times in particular on the role of Salman Ibrahim Al Khalifa in tracking and torturing football players who participated in the demonstrations, the organizations added explaining that criticizing members of the ruling family directly is a red line in Bahrain, which increases the risk of retaliation against al-Araibi in case he was arrested by the Bahraini security authorities.
The organizations added that Hakeem al-Araibi, 25, was unfairly tried in Bahrain, and sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison in 2014, although his defense lawyer provided evidence to the court that al-Araibi was representing Bahrain in a football match between Bahrain and Qatar broadcasted live at the time of the incident, in which he was accused of being involved, namely, the alleged vandalism of a police station. The organizations noted that the Bahraini judiciary has a bad record of making malicious judgments over charges related to freedom of expression and over confessions extracted under torture.
The organizations explained that al-Araibi was able to reach Australia in 2015 and obtained the status of a political refugee in 2017, and while traveling using the United Nations refugee travel document, he was arrested by the Thai authorities at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok on Tuesday, November 27, 2018, over an Interpol notice issued at the request of the Bahraini authorities.
The organizations added that Hakeem al-Araibi was able to conduct a video interview from inside his cell at the airport with a television channel in Australia in addition to a number of news agencies, in which he said, “I am afraid of being deported to Bahrain because it is a very dangerous matter; in Bahrain they can kill me.” Hakeem al-Araibi’s wife said that she was relieved when Australia gave him the status of protection and political asylum, but now she is worried about the risk of death if her husband was deported to Bahrain at any moment. Al-Araibi addressed the Australian authorities in a video message recorded by a phone from his cell in Thailand to persuade Bangkok to prevent his deportation to Bahrain.