Australia urges Thailand to Free Refugee Footballer

By Daily Sports on February 5, 2019

Views: 229

The Australian government on Tuesday urged Thailand to exercise its legal discretion to free a refugee football player who lives and plays in Australia and told a Bangkok court that he refuses to be voluntarily extradited to Bahrain.

Hakeem al-Araibi's rejection of extradition means a trial will be held to determine whether Thai authorities will send him to Bahrain, where he fears he is at risk of torture, or release him so he can return to Australia.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne reiterated her government’s call for the Thai government to release al-Araibi so he can return home to Australia.

“Thailand’s office of the Attorney-General has publicly confirmed that Thailand’s Extradition Act allows for executive discretion in such cases. This was also confirmed by the prosecutor in the context of yesterday’s hearing,” Payne said in a statement.

She added: “Mr. al-Araibi is a refugee and a permanent resident of Australia and the government remains deeply concerned by his ongoing detention in Thailand.”

Australia continued to advocate on al-Araibi’s behalf at the highest levels in both Thailand and Bahrain, Payne said.

A chained al-Araibi yelled to reporters outside court as he was escorted by prison guards into Monday’s hearing: “Please speak to Thailand, don't send me to Bahrain. Bahrain won’t defend me.”

Former Australia national football team captain Craig Foster, who has been lobbying for al-Araibi’s release, shouted words of encouragement to the jailed player.

“Your wife sends her love, Hakeem. All of Australia is with you. Be strong. Football is with you,” Foster said.

Al-Araibi, 25, a former Bahraini national team player, has said he fled his home country due to political repression. He has been living in Melbourne, where he plays for a semi-professional football team.

Bahrain wants him returned to serve a 10-year prison sentence he received in absentia in 2014 for an arson attack that damaged a police station, which he denies.

Al-Araibi’s supporters have said he should be freed and is protected under his status as a refugee with Australian residency. He was detained upon his arrival in Bangkok in November while on a holiday at the request of Bahrain relayed through Interpol. (ESPN)

•Photo shows Hakeem al-Araibi

Source Daily Sports

Posted February 5, 2019


 

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