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Bahraini Footballer’s Relative Pleads for Help from Australia

Bahraini Footballer’s Relative Pleads for Help from Australia
folder_openBahrain access_timeone year ago
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Local Editor

A family member of refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi has revealed the Melbourne man is isolated, being denied the use of his phone and is eating little in detention in Thailand.

Al-Araibi's relative, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals by the Bahraini regime, also begged the Australian government to do more to help the footballer.

"We need Australia to help us, only Australia can help us. He had stayed five years in Australia and had no problems," they told the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

"Hakeem feels very bad, they cut his hair, they took a photo of him and finger printed him. He hasn’t eaten because he only eats halal food and they don’t have halal food. And he is alone there [in detention] as everyone else speaks Thai, but he doesn’t speak Thai."

Al-Araibi was detained by Thai authorities on November 27 after an Interpol red notice, a form of international arrest warrant, was issued at the request of Bahrain.

He had travelled to Thailand with his wife for a honeymoon.

Refugees are not supposed to be subject to Interpol red notices when they are issued by the country from which they flee.

However, it also emerged this week the Australian Department of Home Affairs had notified Thailand that al-Araibi would travel to that country and was subject to a red notice – a move that has been criticized by human rights groups.

The red notice has since been rescinded but a Thai court ruled this week that Bahrain's attempt to extradite him from Thailand could proceed. Al-Araibi is likely to be held in detention for at least another 60 days while the case against him is prepared.

The Australian embassy in Bangkok had offered assistance to al-Araibi, the family member added, but it appeared that Thailand and Bahrain were working closely together on the extradition.

This is despite Araibi being granted refugee status by Australia, and comes as Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne demanded Thailand release him immediately.

The red notice states that al-Araibi and accomplices "deliberately attacked a police station with improvised explosive devices" at around 8pm on November 3, 2012.

Further, it states that al-Araibi met his accomplices at around 6pm on the same day to plan the attack.

But Araibi's supporters have always maintained his innocence - he was found guilty in absentia, and sentenced to ten years' jail - and pointed to the fact that he was playing a football match for his then-Bahraini team, Al Shabab, which was broadcast on live TV.

On Thursday, the London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy published footage of a game between al-Araibi's club and Al Busaiteen that it argued proved the footballer had an alibi.

Al-Araibi, wearing a purple number 25 jersey, can be seen playing and, at the end of the match, shaking hands with members of the opposing side.

The game, played in Muharraq, started at 5.30pm and concluded at about 7.15pm but the alleged attack on the police station took place in al-Khamis – about 20 kilometers away.

The Institute's director of advocacy, Sayyed Ahmed al-Wadaei, said al-Araibi's club had "confirmed that Hakeem remained with his club after the match ended, and travelled back with them in the club’s coach".

"This means it is impossible for Hakeem to have been involved in the incident, which occurred in Khamis, as he would not have had the time to make it there by 8pm".

Amnesty International have started a petition in support of al-Araibi which has already gathered nearly 10,000 signatures, while more than 5000 people have signed a petition.

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team