A Bahraini football player and political refugee has been placed in prison after the Criminal Court extended his detention another two months in anticipation of a drawn-out battle over an extradition request by his homeland.
Court proceedings to weigh Hakeem Ali Mohamed Ali AlAraibi’s extradition to Bahrain, where he alleges past torture and persecution if returned, could drag on for months. Today, the court authorized 60 days of custody in the Bangkok Remand Prison for the man who just over a year ago was granted political asylum by Australia.
Bahrain says the Pascoe Vale Football Club player is a fugitive from justice.
Two weeks after he was arrested at Suvarnabhumi Airport on his way home to Australia with his wife, AlAirabi appealed for help as he was led into the courtroom today.
“Please stop them. I don’t want to go to Bahrain, I want to go to Australia. I didn’t do anything in Bahrain,” AlAlraibi said. “I am refugee in Australia.”
Human rights watchdogs say he was tortured by Bahraini authorities in 2012 due to his brother’s political activities and public criticism of the Bahrain royal family’s alleged involvement in sports scandals. He fled to Australia in 2014 after he was sentenced to a decade behind bars for vandalizing a police station – a crime he denies committing.
The conviction was the basis for Bahrain’s extradition request.
“The big question is, what is Bahrain offering to Thailand and senior officials to make them want to favor Bahrain? There’s no transparency around the decision making. Something doesn’t look right,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch. “This is going to be an ongoing tug-of-war between Bahrain and Australia.”
Nuttasiri Berkman, an attorney with Thailand’s Human Rights Lawyers Association who is representing AlAraibi, says there was no legal basis for his arrest at the airport and therefore his ongoing detention.
AlAraibi faces charges back home for arson, illegal political gatherings that disturbed the public, carrying explosives and destroying private vehicles.
Calls to the Embassy of Bahrain in Bangkok were not immediately returned Tuesday. The embassy tweeted Dec. 1 that the AlAraibi was a “suspect is wanted for security cases” and that they would be “following up with the relevant security authorities in this regard.”
Yahya Alhadid, president of the Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, said that the court proceedings were “unfair” and the detention “illegal.” Adams said that the case Bahrain is bringing against Hakeem is “completely bogus. There are no facts there.”
Sayed Alwadaei of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy said the evidence Bahrain will submit to the Thai court is based on a confession from Hakeem’s brother, Emad AlAraibi, that was coerced through torture.
“The Thai Court should deny Bahrain’s request to extradite Hakeem, as it is in violation of legal principles, and instead must allow him to return safely back to Australia. Hakeem was already unfairly persecuted and subjected to torture in Bahrain,” Alwadaei said. “Sending him back to Bahrain will place him at risk of further torture.”
The 25-year-old footballer was granted refugee status by Australia in November 2017, which allows him to live there.
He had been set to depart Thailand after a vacation here with his wife when he was detained Nov. 27 at the airport. He was later moved to a downtown immigration detention center until a warrant was issued for his arrest this past Friday.