The wife of detained footballer Hakeem al-Araibi has sent an emotional appeal to Thailand’s Prime Minister, asking for the junta leader’s help as she fears for her husband’s life.
Mr al-Araibi was on his honeymoon and had just landed in Bangkok when Thai officials detained him in December.
“We travelled together excited to arrive in Thailand, only to be met with imprisonment, and the threat for my husband to be sent back to Bahrain where his life will be in danger,” she wrote to General Prayut Chan-o-Cha, who has ruled Thailand since a military coup in 2014.
After remaining by his side for three days at the airport and then several more days in immigration detention, Mr al-Araibi’s wife returned to Australia for her own safety, while he was sent to a crowded cell in the Bangkok Remand Prison.
On Tuesday, Bahrain lodged an official extradition request with Thailand, despite Mr al-Araibi having refugee status in Australia and fears of torture if he returns to the country he fled.
“I am frightened for my husband’s life and our future,” she wrote, asking media to refer to her only as Mr al-Araibi’s wife.
“His future lies in your hands … please help my husband come home.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also written to his Thai counterpart.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Prayut made his first comments about the case, hinting at a negotiated settlement.
“I understand the concerns of all sides, we are in the process of exploring solutions,” said General Prayut, according to The Nation newspaper.
Thailand wants talks between Australia and Bahrain
The Thai leader has significant powers at his disposal, especially Article 44 – also known as the dictator’s law – which he has used to push through dozens of legal changes, new projects and other orders.
Thailand’s Foreign Minister stressed the need for talks between the nations who want the 25-year-old footballer.
“What I see as the most proper way [out of this problem] is Australia and Bahrain initiate dialogue [about it],” said Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, as quoted by The Bangkok Post.
“Thailand has already informed them that if they still have good relations, please talk to one another and that would be the best solution.”
As an international campaign gathers momentum – particularly among the powerful global soccer community – Thailand is being urged to live up to recent promises to change the way it treats refugees and asylum seekers.
Mr al-Araibi’s wife drew parallels with the high-profile asylum case of a Saudi teenager who barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room earlier in January.
“I saw the commendable position of Thailand with regards to the recent and similar case of Rahaf Mohammed, who was escaping Saudi Arabia and arrived in Thailand,” she wrote.
“At the time, your officials confirmed that they would not send back someone to be killed.
“Thai authorities supported and protected Rahaf and allowed her to go to Canada. I am only hoping for the same thing for my husband, to be allowed to go back to Australia.”
Mr al-Araibi was detained on the basis of an Interpol notice issued at Bahrain’s request.
It said he was sought because he was sentenced in absentia in 2014 to 10 years in prison for allegedly vandalising a police station, a charge he has denied.
He said he was playing a match that was televised live when the alleged crime occurred.
But when his family members reached out to Bahrain’s soccer association to confirm his alibi, their requests went unanswered.