Refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi faces a year in Thai detention: lawyer


Australian semi-professional footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi has been detained in Bangkok for 58 days, but his lawyer has warned that the process to free him could take a lot longer.

A lawyer for Bahraini refugee Hakeem Al-Araibi, who is currently detained in Bangkok, said she fears it could take a year to free him.

"If the courts say he is allowed to be extradited, we will for sure appeal and it will take a year," said Nadthasiri Bergman, a member of the team working on Mr Al-Araibi's case.

Australian refugee soccer player Hakeem Al-Araibi in detention in Thailand
Australian refugee soccer player Hakeem Al-Araibi in detention in Thailand.

Mr Al-Araibi, a Melbourne resident, was arrested after arriving in Bangkok for a holiday due to an Interpol red notice issued by his home country Bahrain for an alleged act of vandalism. 

The notice was later withdrawn. Interpol has been criticised for contravening their own policy, which states that red notices are not allowed against refugees and asylum seekers, if it was requested by the country where they fear persecution.

Bahrain has until February 8 to lodge a formal extradition application - and if he doesn't, there could be a further 30 day extension. 

If an application is submitted, the documents would then have to be translated into Thai which could take a further three months.

Former Socceroo Craig Foster talks to journalists after meeting detained athlete Hakeem al-Araibi.
Former Socceroo Craig Foster talks to journalists after meeting detained athlete Hakeem al-Araibi.

"It’s frustrating, you know the law says one thing but in practice it is another thing," Ms Bergman said.

Former Socceroos captain and SBS chief football analyst Craig Foster travelled to Thailand earlier this week to lobby for Mr Al-Araibi's release.

On Wednesday, Mr Foster met with Ivo Sieber, ambassador to the Embassy of Switzerland in Thailand, and will spend the rest of the week meeting with government officials and advocacy groups, while he has called on world football's governing body FIFA to take the lead.

"[Gianni] Infantino and FIFA are obligated to advocate directly to the Thai government," he said.

"They should be in Bangkok now."

After meeting with Mr Al-Araibi in prison on Tuesday, he told SBS News that the semi-professional footballer was "losing hope"

"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," he 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 Mr Al-Araibi, who played for Pascoe Vale FC in Melbourne.

Meanwhile, foreign minister Marise Payne said the government was making "extensive efforts" to bring the Australian permanent resident home

"We have most definitely ensured that the Thai government is well aware, at all levels, of the great importance of this matter to Australia," Senator Payne told ABC Radio's AM on Wednesday.

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