Thailand blames Australia for arrest of refugee footballer:The Asahi Shimbun

Hakeem al-Araibi

Hakeem al Araibi plays for Pascoe Vale in Melbourne

Having played semi-professional football for Pascoe Vale in Australia, where he obtained refugee status in 2017, Al-Araibi has been training inside detention to ensure he's ready to play upon his release.

Football Federation Australia yesterday announced that it had scrapped the game against China, a scheduled warm-up ahead of next month's qualifiers for the Asian Under-23 Championships.

Hakeem Al Araibi's case has drawn worldwide criticism as a Thai court considers an extradition request from Bahrain for him to serve a 10-year sentence related to the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011.

Al-Araibi, a former player on Bahrain's national team, says he fled Bahrain due to political repression and that he fears torture if he returns.

But Amnesty International said Thai authorities were culpable for Araibi's detention and were attempting to "pass the buck" by urging Australia and Bahrain to find a diplomatic compromise.

Football's world governing body FIFA has also become involved in Al-Araibi's case, with secretary general Fatma Samoura writing to Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to campaign for his release.

Australia's ambassador to Thailand, who appeared at the court Monday with AlAraibi, said in a statement that Bahrain had never requested AlAraibi's extradition in the four years he has lived in Australia.

Thailand's Foreign Affairs Ministry said it had not been previously aware of al-Araibi's case and was not prejudiced against him.

"Bahrain won't defend me", a chained al-Araibi yelled to reporters outside the court as he was escorted by prison guards into the hearing.

However, Araibi has said he believes he is being targeted over his criticism of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa, a member of Bahrain's ruling family.

After being sentenced by Bahrain to 10 years' jail in absentia, al-Araibi fled in 2014 and was later granted refugee status by Australia and lives in Melbourne. "I have pointed this out in the engagements I've had with the Thai prime minister".

It is under these circumstances that the FFA released their statement on Wednesday in which Australia head coach Graham Arnold was quoted saying that "Australia's national teams are united in their support for Hakeem Al-Araibi".

"I've written to him again because I was very disturbed at the appearance of Hakeem at the hearing the other day and he was shackled", Morrison told Sky News Australia late Tuesday.

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

The FFA wants Al-Araibi returned to Australia "as a matter of urgency".

"In 2019, Thailand will launch Thai-mart which is the biggest economic centre in Bahrain and the import and exports between Bahrain and Thailand are expected to be worth around US$400m annually".

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne called on Thai authorities to use their discretion in Araibi's case.

"The court will consider this case thoroughly and in accordance with the due process of law and the evidence provided, including Bahrain's arrest warrant and court order for Mr Hakeem, who had been convicted under Bahraini laws".

AlAraibi was allegedly tortured by Bahraini authorities for his brother's political actions and sentenced to a decade in jail for the alleged vandalism.

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