Thai court denies bail for soccer player with Australian refugee status who’s wanted in Bahrain

  • Hakeem al-Araibi says he was arrested and beaten in Bahrain in 2012. Campaigners fear he could be tortured if returned to the Gulf state
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2018, 10:14pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2018, 10:14pm

A former soccer player for the Bahrain national team with Australian refugee status must remain in detention in Thailand as he awaits possible extradition, a Bangkok court said on Tuesday, despite campaigners fears he could be tortured if returned to the Gulf state.

Hakeem al-Araibi says he was arrested and beaten at the start of the Arab spring protests in Bahrain in 2012, and was granted refugee status in Australia five years later.

The 25-year-old, who now plays for semi-professional club Pascoe Vale FC in Melbourne, was stopped by Thai immigration on November 27 after arriving in Bangkok for a holiday with his wife. He was detained upon a request from the Bahraini government, as Australia and Bahrain tussle over his fate.

His lawyer Nadthasiri Bergman said on Tuesday that the court had extended his time behind bars in Bangkok for 60 days. The attorney general’s office will then file an application for his extradition, she said.

“I think he has a good chance not to be extradited because we have evidence” that he will face abuses back in Bahrain, Bergman said. The court denied a bail request after the detention order.

Speaking to reporters as he was led into court in the morning by immigration police, al-Araibi begged for the proceedings to be halted.

I didn’t do anything in Bahrain. I’m a refugee in Australia
Hakeem al-Araibi

“Immigration Thailand and Immigration Bahrain work together to send me back to Bahrain. But Australia stopped them. Please stop them,” he said.

“I don’t want to go back to Bahrain – I want to go back to Australia. I didn’t do anything in Bahrain. I’m a refugee in Australia.”

He left the court looking dejected by the day’s proceedings and his lawyer said he was “terrified”. Officials from the Australian embassy were also present at the court for the hearing.

The office of Thailand’s attorney general on Friday submitted a request to the criminal court for an arrest warrant – a step forward in a process that could see al-Araibi extradited to Bahrain to face trial.

He was convicted in absentia on charges of vandalising a police station in the Gulf state, but says he was out of the country playing in a match at the time of the alleged offence.

Asia-Pacific Refugee Rights Network slammed Thai authorities for moving forward on their “callous plans” to extradite al-Araibi.

“This is someone who fled his home country after being tortured, and there is every risk he will face the same treatment again if he is forced back,” said the network’s Evan Jones.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne called for his “immediate return” and said that returning al-Araibi to Bahrain would be “in contravention of international human rights (standards) given his status”.