Australia

Craig Foster pens letter to Thai PM over detained Australia-based refugee

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Former Socceroo Craig Foster has penned an open letter to the Thai PM urging him to stop the extradition of Hakeem Alaraibi.

Former Socceroo and SBS chief football analyst Craig Foster has written open letters to Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha and FIFA, urging them to act and allow Hakeem Alaraibi to return to Australia.

Mr Alaraibi, who lives in Australia and is a permanent resident, has been arrested in Thailand and a local court is set to rule on his extradition to Bahrain, the country he fled, at a soon but unconfirmed date.

Mr Alaraibi fears he will be tortured or killed if sent back to Bahrain because he previously spoke out against authorities.

“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.

Mr Foster told SBS News he wrote the letter, also addressed to Foreign Minister Marise Payne, because footballers and football authorities are in unique positions to have their voices heard.

“Football has the power to apply tremendous political leverage, given the importance of the sport across the region,” he said.

“As the global game, football and all of its participants, whether on field or off have an obligation to protect human rights in society at every turn, and to provide leadership in this area.”

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha

Mr Foster’s letter to FIFA, addressed to President Gianni Infantino and Secretary-General Fatma Samoura, urged the world governing body to act on its human rights policy, which was updated last year.

FIFA’s Human Rights Policy 2017 states: “FIFA is committed to respecting all internationally recognised human rights and shall strive to promote the protection of these rights.”

Mr Foster said FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation "can, and should" apply "the maximum diplomatic and public pressure to demonstrate their commitment to the Human Rights Policy".

“[This] an important test of football’s willingness to uphold the rights we have made a collective commitment to,” he said.

FIFA has said it expects Mr Alaraibi's case "to be solved in accordance with well-established international standards" and said it wants him to return to Australia.

Local support

Mr Alaraibi is well-known in Bahrain, having played for the national football side before playing for Victorian football clubs.

One of those Victorian clubs, Pascoe Vale FC, are among the grassroots clubs and organisations to have shown support for Mr Alaraibi.

Pascoe Vale FC have also written their own open letter  to the Thai PM.

Other supporters of Mr Alaraibi also protested at the Thai consulates in Melbourne and Sydney on Friday.

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