Football bodies, politicians keep pressure on to free Hakeem Al-Araibi after Payne visit

Politicians and sports bodies are continuing to campaign for the release of Melbourne-based refugee and footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi.

Politicians and sports bodies are keeping the pressure on Thai authorities to release Melbourne-based refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi after Foreign Minister Marise Payne's meeting with her Thai counterpart. 

Mr Al-Araibi remains behind bars in Thailand after Senator Payne met with her Thai counterpart Don Pramudwinai and deputy prime minister and justice minister Prajin Juntong on Thursday in Bangkok, where she again raised his case.

Mr Al-Araibi has been held in Thailand since November when he was arrested over an Interpol Red Notice warrant issued by his native Bahrain while on holiday.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne will discuss the plight of Hakeem AlAraibi while visiting Bangkok.
Source: AAP

On Friday morning, Co-Chairs of the Parliamentary Friends of Football, Senator Murray Watt and MP Bert van Manen, wrote to the Thai government to call for Mr Al-Araibi's release.

The letter expressed concerns for reports that "Mr Al-Araibi may be subject to torture if he is returned to Bahrain" and called for his "return to Australia as soon as possible".

Labor's foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong also commended the minister for publicly advocating for the 25-year-old.

"It's been heartening to see the way the football community has come together and united in support of him," Senator Wong told the ABC's AM on Thursday.

The CEO of the Rugby League Players Association Ian Prendergast also tweeted his support for the Melbourne-based footballer.

The support follows Ms Payne's visit to Thailand where she raised concerns over his continued detention, which has lasted 46 days.

"The Thai government is most certainly aware of the importance of this matter to Australia," Senator Payne told reporters in Bangkok on Thursday.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne  is greeted by Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs Don Pramudwinai after she arrives in Bangkok.
Source: EPA

She said the semi-professional soccer player had been visited a number of times by Australian officials, with legal proceedings ongoing.

"We are very concerned about his detention, very concerned about any potential for return of Mr Al-Araibi to Bahrain," Senator Payne said.

"I have reiterated those concerns to both ministers."

Marise Payne in Thailand to lobby her counterpart for Hakeem Al-Araibi safe return

'Very brave'

Australia has been urged to apply maximum pressure to the Thai government in lobbying for Al-Araibi''s release.

Former Socceroos captain Craig Foster said the "very brave" young man should be returned to Australia.

"The silence of the Asian Football Confederation is not just confounding, it's absolutely disgraceful under our human rights obligations within the entire football community," he told reporters in Sydney on Thursday.

FIFA has reaffirmed its desire for the Bahraini to be returned to Australia rather than extradited to his former homeland.

"FIFA is therefore calling on all the relevant authorities (in Bahrain, Thailand and Australia) to take the necessary steps to ensure that Mr Hakeem Al-Araibi is allowed to return safely to Australia where he can resume his career as a professional footballer," world soccer's powerful governing body said in a statement.

The former Bahrain national team footballer with refugee status in Australia, is escorted by immigration police to a court in Bangkok.
Source: AFP

Al-Araibi was on his first overseas trip with his wife since fleeing Bahrain to Australia in 2014 and being granted refugee status in November 2017.

He was sentenced in absentia in 2014 to 10 years in prison for allegedly vandalising a Bahraini police station, which he denies.

A former member of the Bahrain national football team, Al-Araibi played in the National Premier Leagues Victoria for semi-professional Pascoe Vale this year.

Published 10 January 2019 at 7:18pm, updated 11 January 2019 at 11:54am
Source: SBS News