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#SaveHakeem: Former Australia football captain Craig Foster urges FIFA sanctions against Bahrain over jailed player Open in fullscreen

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#SaveHakeem: Former Australia football captain Craig Foster urges FIFA sanctions against Bahrain over jailed player

Australian ex-football star will urge FIFA to slap sanctions on Bahrain over al-Araibi [AFP]

Date of publication: 28 January, 2019

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Former captain of Australia's Socceroos will take the case of detained Bahraini footballer Hakeem al-Araibi straight to FIFA to urge it to use all its powers to secure his release.
The former captain of Australia's national football team, Craig Foster, will take the case of detained Bahraini footballer Hakeem al-Araibi straight to FIFA's headquarters, where he will urge the world body to use all its powers - including sanctions - against Bahrain and Thailand to secure his release.

Foster will meet with FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura on Monday in Zurich, armed with more than 50,000 petition signatures demanding the release of the football player jailed in Thailand since November at the request of the Bahraini regime.

The world governing body has previsouly said al-Araibi should be freed and allowed to return to continue his career.

Bahrain sentenced the player to ten years in absentia in 2014, claiming he was involved in an attack on a police station. Araibi says that he was targeted and tortured by Bahraini authorities for his anti-government views.

Since 2011, Bahrain has been the setting of Arab Spring-inspired protests demanding democratic reforms in the small island kingdom. The regime has responded with a sweeping and often bloody crackdown, detaining hundreds and outlawing most opposition activities.

The Bahraini player has also been a vocal critic of the president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, who is a cousin of the Bahraini king.

Amnesty International has said al-Araibi will be imprisoned and tortured if Thailand sends him back to Bahrain, launching a petition campaign that has garnered 50,000 signatures.


Araibi was granted refugee status by Australia in 2017 and has played for semi-professional Pascoe Vale Football Club in Melbourne. He was detained in Thailand after Bahraini authorities initiated an INTERPOL red notice while he was on holiday in the country with his wife.

Foster, who also represents the Professional Footballers Australia Association, has been one of the most vocal advocates seeking Araibi's release. Last week, he visited him in his Thai prison where the Bahraini
Araibi waits a Thai court hearing and faces the possibility of being sent back to Bahrain.

Amnesty International has said al-Araibi will be imprisoned and tortured if Thailand returns hi, to Bahrain, launching a petition campaign that has garnered 50,000 signatures.

Foster said last week Araibi's case is a litmus test for the implementation of FIFA's recently adopted human rights policy which demands it use "maximum leverage" with stakeholders, and suggested the global football body should threaten both Thailand and Bahrain with sporting sanctions if it proceeded with the extradition.

Thailand has faced growing pressure in recent weeks over its handling of refugees following the case of 18-year-old Saudi runaway Rahaf al-Qunun, who arrived in Bangkok and staved off deportation by barricading herself inside a hotel room at the airport and live-tweeting her plight.

Amid international pressure heightened by social media attention, Qunun was handed over to the UN's refugee agency within days and resettled to Canada within a week.

Qunun said she suffered abuse in the ultra-conservative kingdom and refused to see family members who came to visit her in Thailand after her flight.

After Qunun's resettlement in Canada, Thai immigration chief Surachate Hakparn pledged "no one sent back to the country if they don't want to go back".

Foster and other activists campaigning for the footballer's release are using the #SaveHakeem hashtag along the lines of the #SaveRahaf campaign that secured her release, but Thailand's immigration chief has said the two cases are different and that there was an arrest warrant for Araibi.

Famous British ex-footballer and sports commentator Gary Lineker has tweeted in support of the campaign, while Prince Ali bin Hussain of Jordan, president of Jordan's Football Association, called for the player's immediate release.

With input from agencies

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