News World Demands grow louder to bring imprisoned soccer refugee back to home to Australia

Demands grow louder to bring imprisoned soccer refugee back to home to Australia

Hakeem AlAraibi marise payne
Hakeem al-Araibi still awaits his fate in Thailand. Photo: AP/Gemunu Amarasinghe
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Supporters are demanding the Australian government and international soccer officials intervene to stop a Melbourne-based refugee being sent back to Bahrain.

Hakeem AlAraibi, a semi-professional player, flew from Melbourne to Thailand on holiday with his wife for the first time since fleeing his native country in 2014.

But he was arrested in Thailand over an incorrectly-issued Interpol Red Notice last month.

Players have joined with human rights advocates on Saturday outside Professional Footballers Australia’s headquarters in Melbourne to call on the federal government, football’s international body FIFA, and the Asian Football Confederation to prevent Mr AlAraibi’s extradition.

Former Socceroos captain Craig Foster said every football organisation in the world needed to get behind Mr AlAraibi.

“At this time, a press release is not enough, we need to see action,” Mr Foster said on Saturday.

“It is important Football Federation Australia articulate to the Asian Football Conference that we expect them to stand up for Hakeem.

“The AFC must stand up for us and they must stand up for one of our constituents.”

It comes after Interpol authorities in Australia tipped off Thailand about Mr AlAraibi’s being in the country before his arrival, despite being granted refugee status in Australia last year.

Mr AlAraibi is being held in indefinite detention in Bangkok as he awaits a Thai court decision on extradition.

Lawyer for Amnesty International Diana Sayed said there was a “very real risk” Mr AlAraibi could be extradited back to his home country.

“We know Thailand has actually done this in the past, in 2014 they’ve extradited someone travelling through their country on the same Interpol red notice,” Ms Sayed said.

She said they also had concerns about Australia’s role in the matter which needed to be fully investigated.

Thailand could be in breach of international law if it extradites him to Bahrain.
If he goes to Bahrain, it’s expected Mr AlAraibi will face imprisonment and persecution.

Mr AlAraibi was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison for allegedly vandalising a police station in Bahrain in 2014.

He has also been critical of the Bahraini government after allegedly being tortured by authorities in 2012.