Europe

Craig Foster meets FIFA over detained footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi

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Former Socceroos captain Craig Foster has meet with FIFA in Zurich in his campaign to seek the release of detained footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi.

Former Socceroos captain Craig Foster has met with football's world governing body FIFA to present more than 50,000 petition signatures demanding the release of detained football player Hakeem Al-Araibi.

Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) representative Foster held talks with FIFA general secretary Fatma Samoura at the world body's Zurich headquarters in his campaign to secure Hakeem's release from a Thai prison.

"This matter has become an absolute emergency," Foster said after meeting with FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura.

Hakeem Al-Araibi is escorted into the Criminal Court by authorities in Bangkok, Thailand, 11 December 2018.
Hakeem Al-Araibi is escorted into the Criminal Court by authorities in Bangkok, Thailand, 11 December 2018.
AAP

FIFA agreed with al-Araibi's supporters, Foster said, that they need to increase contacts with government and soccer officials in Bahrain and Thailand.

"The human rights policy of FIFA, we feel, is an incredibly important tool in this situation and we're delighted that FIFA this morning have demonstrated again their commitment to ensuring that every stakeholder in football will apply the absolute maximum leverage and of course that includes the global governing body.

"[Over] the next five days we want to see absolute progress and that means Hakeem al-Araibi being released and we are going to continue to work with FIFA to ensure that occurs on behalf of the football community in Australia."

Al-Araibi has been detained in Bangkok for the past two months while the Bahrain government prepares an official request for his extradition over a 2012 police station attack.

His 60-day detention expires on 8 February.

Amnesty International first launched a petition with an initial target of 20,000 signatures to mount pressure on Thailand authorities to release the former Bahraini footballer.

Al-Araibi was granted refugee status by Australia in 2014 and plays for semi-professional Pascoe Vale Football Club in Melbourne.

Bahrain sentenced him to 10 years jail in absentia.

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22 January: Hakeem Al-Araibi says he is losing hope as SBS's Craig Foster visits him in Thai prison
22 January: Hakeem Al-Araibi says he is losing hope as SBS's Craig Foster visits him in Thai prison

Amnesty International claimed Al-Araibi will be imprisoned and tortured if Thailand sends him back to Bahrain.

Al-Araibi was detained in Thailand after Bahraini authorities initiated an Interpol red notice while he was on holiday in the country with his wife.

Foster has led calls for Al-Araibi's release after visiting the player in Thailand.

The former Socceroo believed FIFA should threaten Bahrain with sporting sanctions if it proceeded with the extradition and also consider measures against Thailand.

AFC says its Bahraini president has no influence

The AFC has been criticised for its silence on the matter after being called upon to intervene, but on Saturday, the AFC released a statement claiming its president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa has had no influence on their handling of the case.

Saturday's statement says Sheikh Salman was recused from all matters relating to West Asia 18 months ago to avoid conflicts of interest and AFC vice president Praful Patel is working with global governing body FIFA "to find a solution" to the matter of the detention of Al-Araibi.

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23 January: Marise Payne says 'extensive efforts' under way for return of Hakeem Al-Araibi
23 January: Marise Payne says 'extensive efforts' under way for return of Hakeem Al-Araibi

But Foster said last week it was a seminal case to test the implementation of FIFA's recently adopted human rights policy which demands it use "maximum leverage" with stakeholders.

"Mr Foster, who has been leading calls to #SaveHakeem, is carrying some 50,000 petition signatures and supporting documents that demand his immediate release," a PFA statement said before the FIFA meeting.

"Mr Al-Araibi has been detained in a Bangkok detention centre for two months, facing imminent extradition to Bahrain, in a severe violation of international law and his human rights.

"After a week-long visit to Bangkok in which he met with Mr Al-Araibi and senior Thai and Australian government officials, Mr Foster will unveil details of obligations before football authorities who are under increasing international pressure to intervene in what is a major litmus test of FIFA's recently-adopted human rights policy.

"Given updates obtained on the ground in Bangkok, the matter is now extremely urgent."

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