Thailand urged to refuse Bahraini refugee footballer’s extradition

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Bangkok, Feb 4 (IANS) The Amnesty International on Monday urged Thailand to refuse to extradite Bahraini refugee 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 Amnesty’s representative in Thailand, Katherine Gerson.

Al Araibi, 25, is due to appear in court in Bangkok on Monday, reports Efe news.

The hearing comes after Bahraini authorities formally requested Al Araibi’s extradition, who is a resident in Australia, where he has refugee status.

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.

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.

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27 when he and his wife arrived in Bangkok on their honeymoon from Melbourne due to an Interpol alert that was later withdrawn.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 is in a detention centre and faces being extradited to Bahrain, where he fears for his life and says he was tortured in 2012 for his involvement in the Arab Spring protests.

“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 country and attacking Interpol for violating its own refugee protection policy.

Al Araibi fled his country in 2014 and was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison for vandalism of a police station during a protest that, according to the Human Rights Watch, occurred while the player was playing a game with the national team.

–IANS

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