Amnesty steps in for Aussie refugee soccer star jailed in Thailand

Bangkok: The Amnesty International on Monday (Feb 4) urged Thailand not to extradite Bahraini footballer Hakeem al Araibi to his home country.
“The Thai authorities should stop all proceedings related to this absurd, cruel and cynical extradition request,” said Katherine Gerson, Amnesty’s representative in Thailand.
The Bahraini authorities have sought Al Araibi’s extradition, who is a resident in Australia and has refugee status, reports Efe.
“The Thai government should see that Bahrain’s sole motive is to further punish Hakeem for the peaceful political opinions he expressed,” Gerson said, stressing the footballer’s risk of suffering “unjust imprisonment” in his home country. Gerson also criticised Interpol for violating its own refugee protection policy.
The Australian government, FIFA and the International Olympic Committee as well as the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have called for Al Araibi’s release from detention in Thailand.
Al Araibi, a former Bahrain national team player, was arrested on November 27 when he and his wife arrived in Bangkok on their honeymoon from Melbourne, due to an Interpol alert that was later withdrawn.
The footballer faces extradition to Bahrain, where he fears for life and claims to have been tortured in 2012 for his involvement in the Arab Spring protests.
Al Araibi fled Bahrain in 2014 and was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison for vandalism at a police station during a protest that, according to the Human Rights Watch, took place while the player was playing a game with the national team.
He obtained refugee status in Australia the same year.
Thailand is not a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees and has been criticised for sending refugees and asylum-seekers to countries where they face persecution and even torture.
“Please don’t send me to Bahrain,” the BBC quoted Al Araibi as saying after he arrived barefoot and bound in chains in court.
The court extended his detention by 60 days, during which he can file an objection against the extradition request.