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Thailand says Australia to blame for arrest of refugee Bahraini footballer

09 February 2019

Trumph Jalichandra, who is also a deputy secretary-general of the Office of the Attorney-General, said his office received a request from the Bahraini government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Dec 3 past year for the extradition of Hakeem al-Araibi, who fled criminal charges related to the 2011 Arab Spring protests against Bahrain's government.

FFA on Wednesday cancelled a trip to Bangkok which was scheduled as part of a proposed pre-AFC Under-23 Championship qualifiers camp.

The former captain of Australia has said that Bahrain and Thailand should be barred from hosting worldwide sport until Hakeem al-Araibi, the refugee footballer, is released from prison.

Activists campaigning for his release suggest that the footballer should never even have been detained; an worldwide warrant was issued for Al-Araibi's arrest as he flew to Bangkok although such red notice requests are not meant for refugees.

Thailand now claims to be caught between Bahrain, which is seeking the extradition of Araibi, and Australia, which is calling for him to be freed given his refugee status there.

The Australian government, world football governing body Fifa and the global players' union FIFPro have all advocated the release of the player.

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Hakeem al-Araibi, a Bahraini refugee and Australian resident, is escorted to a courtroom in Bangkok February 4, 2019.

Thailand said previously that it was acting on an Interpol Red Notice request from Bahrain.

Al-Araibi, 25, who is wanted by Bahrain over the firebombing of a police station in 2012, was detained at Bangkok airport on November 27 when he arrived from Melbourne for his honeymoon.

Araibi was convicted of vandalizing a police station during 2011 anti-government protests in Bahrain and was sentenced to 10 years in prison in absentia after he fled.

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. He says he only wants to return to Australia, where he has lived since 2014 and plays for a Melbourne football club.

"I've written to him again because I was very disturbed at the appearance of Hakeem at the hearing the other day and he was shackled", Morrison told Sky News Australia late Tuesday.

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AlAraibi was allegedly tortured by Bahraini authorities for his brother's political actions and sentenced to a decade in jail for the alleged vandalism.

"I am respectfully reminding the Thai PM that Australians feel very strongly about this. Thailand can, and should, return Hakeem to Australia".

He is set to remain in prison for the next 60 days as lawyers prepare his case, which has attracted worldwide attention, against extradition to Bahrain.

"From this point on, the case has entered into the Thai judiciary system", said Trumph Jalichandra, deputy spokesman for the attorney general's office.

"Thailand's office of the Attorney-General has publicly confirmed that Thailand's Extradition Act allows for executive discretion in such cases".

"If you look at the number of foreign defendants, they pay their bail and jump bail and then don't show up in court", Chatchom Akapin, the office's director general for global affairs, said, adding that the policy applied "not only to Hakeem".

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Thailand says Australia to blame for arrest of refugee Bahraini footballer