News World Marise Payne to discuss refugee footballer’s detention on Thai visit

Marise Payne to discuss refugee footballer’s detention on Thai visit

Hakeem AlAraibi marise payne
Hakeem al-Araibi still awaits his fate in Thailand. Photo: AP/Gemunu Amarasinghe
Tweet Share Reddit Pin Email

Foreign Minister Marise Payne will continue to pressure Thailand to release a Melbourne-based refugee footballer who has been detained for more than two months.

Senator Payne will on Thursday visit the Southeast Asian nation, with Hakeem AlAraibi’s ongoing detention in Bangkok set to be a key issue she discusses with her Thai counterpart Don Pramudwinai.

Mr Al Araibi was arrested over an Interpol Red Notice warrant issued by his native Bahrain in November while on holiday, sparking calls for him to be returned to Australia.

It was his first overseas trip with his wife since fleeing Bahrain to Australia in 2014 and being granted refugee status in November 2017.

He was sentenced in absentia in 2014 to 10 years in prison for allegedly vandalising a Bahraini police station, which he denies.

A former member of the Bahrain national football team, Mr Al Araibi played in the National Premier Leagues Victoria for semi-professional Pascoe Vale this year.

Hakeem AlAraibi Thailand
Ms Payne’s visit comes amid FIFA’s calls for his release. Photo: AAP

On the eve of Ms Payne’s arrival in Thailand, FIFA reaffirmed its desire for the Bahraini to be returned to Australia rather than extradited to his former homeland from Thailand.

“Following a renewed exchange with the Australian Football Federation, FIFA is again calling for a humane and speedy resolution of the case concerning the player Hakeem Al Araibi,” FIFA said in a statement released on Wednesday night.

“FIFA is therefore calling on all the relevant authorities (in Bahrain, Thailand and Australia) to take the necessary steps to ensure that Mr Hakeem Al-Araibi is allowed to return safely to Australia where he can resume his career as a professional footballer.”

Senator Payne will also sign a memorandum of understanding with Thailand relating to cyber and digital co-operation including managing threats and promoting trade.

Thailand is the second largest economy in Southeast Asia and Australia’s ninth largest two-way trading partner.