Australian PM "disturbed" by Thai detention of refugee footballer

Hakeem Al Araibi Drogba

The Football Federation of Australia (FFA) have cancelled their U-23 national team's training trip to Thailand as a support to refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi who has been detained in the country.

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

Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement yesterday blaming Australia for Hakeem Al-Alraibi's extradition, reiterating that Australian Interpol had originally alerted Thai authorities to Hakeem's red notice.

Mr Araibi, 25, a former Bahraini national team player, says he fled his home country due to political repression.

In his first letter, Morrison called for Thailand to send al-Araibi back to Australia.

Hakeem al-Araibi has gained massive sympathy worldwide, particularly in Australia - while Thailand feels the hate.

"Thailand is highly culpable for Hakeem's detention and still has the power at any point to bypass the court proceedings and make a decision to send him home to Australia".

The government insisted Tuesday (Feb 5) that the justice system must be allowed to run its course in the case involving the extradition of Bahraini footballer Hakeem al-Araibi, as a social media campaign against his extradition using the hashtag #BoycottThailand gathers steam after images of the player in shackles emerged online.

Bahrain wants him returned to serve a 10-year prison sentence he received in absentia in 2014 for an arson attack that damaged a police station, which he denies.

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He was detained upon his arrival in Bangkok in November while on honeymoon and subsequently was held pending the completion of the extradition request by Bahrain.

The case has also drawn appeals from Australia's prime minister and soccer's world governing body, FIFA.

Former Australian football captain Craig Foster along with a group who has been campaigning for Araibi's release were present at the court to lend support to the embattled player. "Be strong. Football is with you", Foster said.

"Under such circumstances, Thailand has no other legitimate option but to cooperate in accordance with the law and suggest that the two countries, both good friends of Thailand and good friends with one another, talk to each other to sort out their problems and come up with their own solution, instead of trying to find an indirect solution from Thailand, who has only become involved in this case by chance".

It also said that under the Public Prosecutors Act, the case against Al-Araibi could be withdrawn as it was not in the public interest, nor related to public safety or security.

"So between now and then, Hakeem will have to be in custody for at least until August", Trumph Jalichandra said, adding that he could only be released sooner if Bahrain withdrew its request.

Thai officials have indicated that there could be action taken by the executive branch of government, but only after the extradition case has gone through the courts.

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.

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