Cave diving heroes call for Hakeem Al-Araibi's release from Thai prison


The cave divers who rescued a Thai football team have written to Thailand's prime minster asking him to free refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi from prison.

Cave diving heroes and Australians of the Year Dr Richard Harris and Dr Craig Challen have joined the campaign to save refugee footballer Hakeem-al Araibi, writing to the prime minister of Thailand to release him from jail.

According to the ABC a letter was sent a few days ago to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha asking him to consider freeing Al-Araibi, who is waiting for an extradition hearing to return to Bahrain.

The Melbourne-based footballer was detained on November 27 by Thai authorities when he arrived for his honeymoon.

Long-time friends Richard Harris and Craig Challen have been awarded the first ever joint Australian of the Year award.
Long-time friends Richard Harris and Craig Challen were awarded the first ever joint Australian of the Year award.

His family has accused the Thai government of human rights violations and called on it to immediately release their detained son.

In a statement provided to SBS News from Bahrain on Friday, Mr Al-Araibi's family said the two-month detention was "unjust" and constituted "a crime committed by the government of Thailand".

Mr Al-Araibi, 25, is wanted by Bahrain over the firebombing of a police station in 2012 and was arrested at Bangkok airport on November 27 when he arrived from Melbourne.

But Mr Al-Araibi's family stressed his innocence, "based on clear and irrefutable evidence".

"[He] is being accused of a crime that occurred while he was playing in a nationally-televised game in [Bahrain’s] domestic league at the Muharraq Stadium. The game was aired live on the Bahrain Radio and Television Corporation."

Hakeem Al-Araibi leaves Thailand's Criminal Court.
Hakeem Al-Araibi leaves Thailand's Criminal Court.

It comes as supporters of the detained refugee footballer urgently try to raise $225,000 for a bail application to free him from prison.

Officials have contacted his legal team and said there is a chance bail might be granted.

His lawyer Nadthasiri Bergman said she is preparing a bail submission and would make the offer that al-Araibi wear an electronic monitoring bracelet and have his movements restricted.

"We will tell them that he will remain in one place and if he travels outside of Bangkok, or anything like that, we will notify authorities of his movement," Ms Bergman said.

She hopes to make the offer next week.

Evan Jones from the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network who is helping raise the funds, said they already had $40,000 from GoFundMe and MyCause and was hoping to get 5 million baht ($A225,000) by the end of next week.

Jones said he had contacted Professional Footballers Australia which supports a bail application.

PFA chief executive John Didulica says the association has already raised nearly $30,000 to assist with his legal costs and help his wife in Australia.

He said he and Ms Bergman had spoken to other lawyers about bail in extradition cases, who indicated the amount would have to be above 3 million baht ($A135,000).

'Proof of innocence' 

The footballer's family said they had documentation from the Bahrain Football Association confirming he was on field at the time of the alleged offence, saying he's innocent. 

"We demand that the Thai government take an objective look at his case and release him immediately. We, the family, hold [the Thai government] responsible for our son's psychological and physical wellbeing."

Mr Al-Araibi has said he faces possible death should he be deported to Bahrain, concerns shared by his relatives.

"We also reiterate our fear for his life if he is returned to Bahrain where he has been subjected to torture and ill-treatment despite not having committed any offence," they said.

Red Notice dispute

Earlier Friday, Australia denied issuing the Interpol Red Notice that led to Mr Al-Araibi's detention, but has admitted to notifying Thailand about his arrival.

Thailand has laid the blame for Mr Al-Araibi's arrest squarely at the feet of Australia, saying he was detained at its request.

But the Australian embassy in Bangkok has responded with a strongly-worded statement to "clear up confusion" about the matter.

"The red notice should never have been issued because of Mr Alaraibi’s status as a protected refugee. This was a breach of Interpol’s regulations," it said in a statement.

"The Australian Government was not initially aware of this, and in line with Interpol procedure notified Thailand of Mr Alaraibi’s travel."

Sydney FC fans display a sign during an A-League match.
Sydney FC fans display a sign during an A-League match.

Mr Al-Araibi, who plays for the semi-professional team Pascoe Vale FC in Melbourne, was granted refugee status and protection by Australia after fleeing Bahrain in 2014.

He appeared in a Thai court on Monday where the formal hearings in his extradition trial were set down to start on April 22.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch