#SaveHakeem: Thailand blames Australia for Bahraini refugee footballer's arrest

#SaveHakeem: Thailand blames Australia for Bahraini refugee footballer's arrest
2 min read
06 February, 2019
Thailand's foreign ministry places the blame on Australia for the arrest of Hakeem al-Araibi, saying it received an Interpol "red notice" from the Australian police.
Refugee footballer Araibi attends court in Bangkok [Getty]
Thailand has defended its arrest of Hakeem al-Araibi, saying his detention was due to an Interpol "red notice" sent by Australian police when the football player was en-route to Bangkok.  

Thailand's foreign ministry on Wednesday described its involvement as "by chance", after a "red notice" was initiated by Bahrain, where Araibi is wanted for allegedly vandalising a police station during anti-government protests. He says he was out of the country playing in a match at the time of the alleged offence.

"It took several days after the arrival of Mr Hakeem before the Australian authorities informed us that the red notice had been cancelled," said a Thai foreign office official.

Seemingly 'irreversible' legal proceedings have now begun. It will take the Thai court two to three months to reach a decision after the case is heard in April.

The Thai foreign ministry has described the issue as "involving two countries competing for Mr Hakeem's custody."

The Bahraini embassy in Bangkok deems Araibi a fugitive who should be returned, while the Australian authorise are calling for Araibi, who has refugee status in Australia, to be released.

Araibi pleaded with Thai authorities early last week, saying "please don't send me to Bahrain" after arriving in shackles to a Bangkok court.

Araibi, a former Bahraini national team player, has said he fled his home country due to political repression and fears he is at risk of being tortured. He wishes to return to Australia where he has lived and played football professionally since 2014.

The player has said he believes he is being targeted over his criticism of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, a member of Bahrain's ruling family.