Asia-Pacific

Australian government renews calls for release of detained refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi

Thai prison guards lead Hakeem al-Araibi, centre from a court house in Bangkok Source: AAP

A human rights group says a Melbourne-based refugee footballer detained in Thailand has been unable to contact his wife or supporters for three weeks.

Australian consular officials have visited a Melbourne-based footballer who continues to be detained in Thailand. 

Semi-professional soccer player Hakeem Al-Araibi, 25, is facing deportation to his native Bahrain after being arrested in Bangkok on a wrongly issued Interpol Red Notice while holidaying with his wife in November.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne on Friday said Australian consular officials visited Mr Al-Araibi in prison "a couple of days ago".

"We continue to work closely with the Thai government and I know there is a great deal of support for Mr Al-Araibi's release," she told reporters in Sydney.

"We have sought the understanding of the Thai government in relation to this matter and asked them to consider releasing Mr Al-Araibi as soon as possible." 

A human rights group says he's also been denied contact with his wife and family for three weeks. 

Mr Al-Araibi's outside contact has been increasingly restricted and he hasn't been able speak to his wife in three weeks, Fatima Yazbek from the Gulf Institute for Democratic and Human Rights told AAP on Friday.

The 25-year-old could see his wife, had access to his phone and the internet, and could communicate with human rights group supporters when first placed in immigration detention.

"Once the courts set a date for his hearing he was transferred to a prison ... we couldn't contact him via phone anymore and recently he's even not allowed to have access to paper and a pen," Ms Yazbek said.

"We've tried to have permission granted to send him letters or have him send them to his wife, but prison authorities refused."

Hakeem Al-Araibi remains in Thai detention.
Hakeem Al-Araibi remains in Thai detention and has now reportedly been denied contact with his wife.
Twitter @MARYAMALKHAWAJA

Refugees are not supposed to be issued with Interpol Red Notices requested from the country which they have fled.

While Ms Yazbek said the notice has been lifted, Mr Al-Araibi is still being detained while Bahrain seeks his extradition.

He has been openly critical of the Gulf nation's government, speaking about an incident where he was allegedly tortured by authorities in 2012.

Mr Al-Araibi was sentenced in absentia in 2014 to 10 years in prison for allegedly vandalising a Bahraini police station.

A former member of the Bahrain national football team, he says he was overseas playing in a televised match when the alleged incident occurred.

Mr Al-Araibi fears he will be tortured if he is returned to his home country.

Thailand would be in breach of international law if it was to proceed with extradition.

But he could be forced to wait months for a decision, with an extradition hearing not expected until mid-February while Thai authorities await further extradition material from Bahrain.

Mr Al-Araibi said he was repeatedly assured by Australian authorities before reaching Thailand that he was safe to travel.

Leading a campaign to free Hakeem has been former Socceroo and SBS chief football analyst Craig Foster, who late last year penned open letters to Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha and FIFA.

“As fellow members of the Asian Football Confederation, we possess a brotherhood among nations that extends well beyond the playing field and is underpinned by respect for the basic human rights of all who play our wonderful game,” Mr Foster wrote in his letter to Mr Prayut.

Supporters of Hakeem Alaraibi gather in Melbourne
Supporters of Hakeem Alaraibi, including SBS football commentator Craig Foster, gather in Melbourne
SBS

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch