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Bahrain footballer to remain in detention: Thai court

  • Joe Freemen and Sippachai Kunnuwong

    Agence France-Presse

Bangkok, Thailand   /   Thu, January 10, 2019   /   02:34 pm
Bahrain footballer to remain in detention: Thai court Human rights groups and the Australian football community hold a protest in front of the Opera House for the release of refugee footballer Hakeem Alaraibi in Sydney on January 10, 2019. Alaraibi, who plays for a semi-professional football club in Melbourne, was stopped by Thai immigration on November 27, 2018 after arriving in Bangkok for a vacation with his wife. (AFP/Saeed Khan)

A former Bahrain national footballer with Australian refugee status must remain in detention in Thailand as he awaits possible extradition, a Bangkok court said Tuesday, as campaigners say they fear he could be "tortured" if returned to the Gulf state.

Hakeem Alaraibi 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 vacation with his wife and detained upon request from the Bahraini government, as Australia and Bahrain tussle over his fate.

His lawyer Nadthasiri Bergman told AFP Tuesday the court has extended his time behind bars in Bangkok for 60 days.

The attorney-general's office would 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, Alaraibi begged for the proceedings to be halted.

"Immigration Thailand and Immigration Bahrain work together to send me back to Bahrain. But Australia stopped them. Please stop them," Alaraibi 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." 

Alaraibi left the court looking dejected by the day's proceedings and his lawyer said he was "terrified".

Officials from the Australian embassy were present at the court as well 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 Alaraibi 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 (APRRN) slammed Thai authorities for moving forward on their "callous plans" to extradite Alaraibi.

"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 APRRN's Evan Jones.  

Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne called for his "immediate return" and said that returning Alaraibi to Bahrain would be "in contravention of international human rights (standards) given his status".