Ongoing detention in Thailand of Bahraini footballer Hakeem Al Araibi alarms the Chair of the EP Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI) Pier Antonio Panzeri.

“I am dismayed by the ongoing unacceptable situation for the refugee football player Hakeem Al-Araibi. The rightful place for Hakeem is certainly not behind bars in Thailand but outside, with his family, friends and supporters.

Returning Hakeem Al-Araibi to Bahrain would violate international human rights law and put his life in serious danger. Thai immigration authorities should ensure that he is allowed to return to Australia without any harm to his wellbeing."

The Asian Football Confederation and FIFA must speed up their efforts and work hard for his release, said Mr Panzeri (S&D, IT). “I strongly encourage FIFA to uphold its new human rights policy as this case is indeed a fundamental test for the sport and for the international football authorities.

I also actively encourage the Australian government to continue its extensive efforts to seek a safe return for Hakeem to Australia, a country where he is building a new life with his wife and friends.”

Background

Al-Araibi, a Bahraini refugee who lives in Australia as a permanent resident, was arrested on arrival in Bangkok on the evening of 27 November, on the basis of a red notice warrant issued by his native Bahrain. He was convicted by a Bahraini court in absentia for an alleged act of vandalism of a police station, which occurred while Al-Araibi was playing in a televised football match.

The red notice was erroneously issued by Interpol against its own protocols, which ban the granting of red notices for refugees on behalf of the country from which the individual fled. The Interpol red notice on Al-Araibi was later lifted.

Thailand has given Bahrain 60 days to lodge a formal extradition request, a period which runs out on February 8, but can be extended by another 30 days.