Immigration

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

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Refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi says he is "losing hope" in his battle to be released from a Thai prison.

Matt Connellan reports from Bangkok.

Bahraini footballer and Australian permanent resident Hakeem Al-Araibi has been detained in Bangkok for 57 days.

The Bahraini government is hoping to extradite him to face a 10-year jail term, which was handed down after he had fled the country.

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10 January: Marise Payne visits Thailand to lobby her counterpart for Hakeem Al-Araibi's safe return
10 January: Marise Payne visits Thailand to lobby her counterpart for Hakeem Al-Araibi's safe return

Former Socceroo and SBS's chief football analyst Craig Foster visited Al-Araibi in Bangkok Remand Prison earlier today. 

"I spent a considerable amount of time with Hakeem, enough to see what a wonderful young man he is; and how devastated he is that his football career in recent years has been lost," Foster said.

He said he visited the refugee footballer in prison as part of his duties as a former chairman of Australia's Professional Footballers Association, which has been lobbying for the release of the semi-professional footballer who played for Pascoe Vale FC in Melbourne.

"Hakeem is losing hope," he said taking a few moments to regroup after choking up with emotion. 

"So Hakeem is worried because the case has been ongoing for so long now...he is worried as he said: Bahrain is winning."

"And he said: I need you guys to win.

"And I told him that the players of the world are fighting hard for him."

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

Foster brought with him the well wishes of the worldwide football community, which Al-Araibi said is giving him strength.

"I told him how the fans in Australia had taken it upon themselves to stand in the fifth minute [of the A-League football games] and clap for a minute to share solidarity with him.

"He was almost aghast. And he said that gives him strength. He said that he is losing strength. And I encouraged him to keep it up.

"And I spoke to him about how much people care about him, and how hard they're working for him."

But the 25-year-old has a message for FIFA and its President Gianni Infantino.

"And I asked him what his message would be for Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA," Foster said of his conversation with Al-Araibi.

"And he said the following: To Gianni Infantino, where are you? Where is FIFA? Where are my human rights?"

The exterior of the prison where Hakeem Al-Araibi is being detained.
The exterior of the prison where Hakeem Al-Araibi is being detained.
SBS

FIFA released a statement on 9 January saying it was "again calling for a humane and speedy resolution of the case concerning the player Hakeem Al Araibi". 

"This situation should not have arisen, in particular, since Mr Al-Araibi now lives and works and plays as a professional footballer in Australia, where he has been accorded refugee status."

"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."

Foster's visit is part of a week-long trip to the Thai capital, where he will lobby international groups and governments to try and secure Al-Araibi's release.

He has been detained in Bangkok for 57 days and told Foster that this episode has taken away from him the two things he loves most: his wife and football.

The Bahraini footballer was arrested at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport as he travelled to Thailand for his honeymoon with his wife, who has since returned to Australia.

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