Sport Football Federal government urges Thai PM to free Hakeem al-Araibi now

Federal government urges Thai PM to free Hakeem al-Araibi now

Marise Payne says the Australian government remains deeply concerned about Hakeem al-Araibi. Photo: Getty
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Foreign Minister Marise Payne has again urged Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to intervene and send refugee soccer player Hakeem al-Araibi home to Australia.

Al-Araibi, who appeared at an extradition hearing in a Bangkok court on Monday shackled and in a beige prison uniform, formally refused Bahrain’s request to be returned to his homeland.

“Thailand’s office of the Attorney-General has publicly confirmed that Thailand’s Extradition Act allows for executive discretion in such cases,” Senator Payne said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Mr al-Araibi is a refugee and a permanent resident of Australia and the government remains deeply concerned by his ongoing detention ”

Al-Araibi’s lawyers were given until April 5 to submit documents relating to the extradition case and a preliminary hearing is set for April 22.

Australia’s ambassador-designate Allan McKinnon attended the hearing with more than a dozen diplomatic staff from other countries who support al-Araibi’s immediate release.

Mr McKinnon said the prosecutor had confirmed that Mr Prayut had the executive powers to intervene on al-Araibi’s behalf.

“We are asking Prime Minister Prayut to allow Hakeem al-Araibi to return to Australia, he is a refugee, allow him to return to Australia to his friends and his family,” he told reporters.

Hakeem AlAraibi marise payne
Hakeem al-Araibi still awaits his fate in Thailand. Photo: AAP

Former Socceroos captain Graig Foster, who has rallied international support for al-Araibi’s cause, including from FIFA and the International Olympic Committee, said Bahrain and Thailand should be threatened with immediate expulsion from world sport.

“Whilst we have a string of diplomatic representation in the courtroom, it’s clearly having little effect on Thailand,” Foster told AAP.

“What’s happened today, particularly him being brought in in shackles, is going to really drive the football community to put massive pressure on them,” he added.

Professional Footballers Australia also called on FIFA, the Asian Football Confederation and the IOC to consider sporting sanctions against Thailand and Bahrain after Monday’s court ruling.

Al-Araibi was sentenced to 10 years’ jail in absentia over the firebombing of a police station in Bahrain in November 2012. He denies the charges and says he was playing in a televised match when the attack happened.

Al-Araibi, who plays for the semi-professional team Pascoe Vale FC in Melbourne, was granted refugee status and protection by Australia after fleeing Bahrain in 2014. He was travelling to Thailand for a belated honeymoon.