Published: Sat, February 09, 2019
Global Media | By Garry Long

Hakeem Case Different from Rahaf, 'Big Joke' Says

Hakeem Case Different from Rahaf, 'Big Joke' Says

The Australian government has renewed calls for refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi to be released from detention in Thailand.

Governing body Football Federation Australia (FFA) on Wednesday cancelled the under-23 men's team's plans to hold a training camp and a friendly game in Thailand ahead of the AFC U23 Championship qualifiers in March.

As Hakeem Al-Araibi faces a further 60 days in a Thailand detention centre after formally asking not to be sent back to Bahrain, the refugee has vowed he'll be ready to play for Victorian side Pascoe Vale once he's released.

Al-Araibi, a former player on Bahrain's national team, says he fled Bahrain due to political repression and that he fears torture if he returns.

Worldwide condemnation of al-Araibi's treatment has focused on Thailand's role, particularly since it was confirmed the government has the power to release him.

Thailand's Foreign Affairs Ministry said it had not been previously aware of al-Araibi's case and was not prejudiced against him.

Jailed Bahraini footballer Hakeem Al Araibi leaves Thailand's Criminal Court, in Bangkok, Thailand February 4, 2019.

He is wanted for damaging a police station but the former national youth footballer says the case is bogus and tied to his criticism of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, a member of Bahrain's ruling family.

In 2014, a court in Bahrain sentenced Araibi to 10 years in prison on multiple charges of vandalizing a police station.

He was arrested by Thai authorities on November 27 at Bahrain's request.

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Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the case would be tried in court in compliance with Thai judicial procedures and the government is not in a position to interfere.

It is under these circumstances that the FFA released their statement on Wednesday in which Australia head coach Graham Arnold was quoted saying that "Australia's national teams are united in their support for Hakeem Al-Araibi".

"The smile when he heard about [Chiellini] and [Drogba], never seen anything like it - a footballer's passion never dies", Foster wrote.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the Thai attorney-general has confirmed that the Extradition Act allows for such discretion. I'm respectfully reminding the Thai prime minister that Australians feel very strongly about this.

Senator Payne said she had also encouraged Bahrain's government not to to proceed with the extradition.

The latter hashtag consisted mostly of tweets that either defended the "fair" court system now mulling the refugee footballer's fate, or put the blame back on Australia.

"So between now and then, Hakeem will have to be in custody for at least until August", Trumph Jalichandra said.

The statement suggested that Australia and Bahrain talk with each other to work out a mutually acceptable agreement on al-Araibi's fate, rather than have a Thai court decide it.

After fleeing Bahrain, where he was jailed and allegedly tortured due to those charges, he was granted political asylum in Australia and was a permanent resident awaiting full Australian citizenship.

The Thai attorney-general's office told reporters on Wednesday that with extradition requests, bail would be opposed. Bahrain said he had the right to appeal as others involved in the case have done.

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