Australia denies issuing arrest warrant for Bahraini refugee footballer

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Canberra, Feb 8 (IANS) Australian authorities on Friday dismissed Thailand’s claim that it has issued the Red Notice for the arrest of Bahraini refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi, presently detained in Bangkok.

The Thai Foreign Ministry on Thursday suggested al-Araibi was arrested on arrival in Thailand in November 2018 after it “received the Red Notice alert from the Australian Interpol”, reports Xinhua news agency.

Responding to the assertion, Australia’s embassy in Bangkok issued a statement to “clear up confusion regarding the Interpol Red Notice issued against Hakeem al-Araibi”, saying Bahrain issued the Red Notice, which is a form of international arrest warrant.

“Australia never issued a Red Notice against al-Araibi. This Red Notice was issued by Bahrain on November 8, 2018, shortly before al-Araibi travelled to Bangkok,” the statement said.

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“The Red Notice should never have been issued because of al-Araibi’s status as a protected refugee. This was a breach of Interpol’s regulations.

“When the Australian government became aware of the situation, we ensured the red notice was rescinded as soon as possible. This happened on November 30, only three days after al-Araibi arrived in Bangkok.

“The Australian government has said unequivocally on many occasions that al-Araibi should be returned to Australia, where he is a permanent resident with protected status, as soon as possible, the statement added.

Al-Araibi, a former member of Bahrain’s national football team, fled his home country for Australia in 2014 after he was accused of vandalising a police station.

He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in absentia and Bahrain has applied to Thailand for his extradition so that he can serve the sentence.

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Speaking in Thai court where he was refused bail on Monday, al-Araibi said he fears he will be tortured if returned to Bahrain.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has written to his Thai counterpart asking for al-Araibi’s immediate release twice.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the government was doing everything in its power to return al-Araibi to Australia.

The extradition trial will return to court on April 22.

–IANS

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