Australia

Refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi facing months in Thai detention to fight extradition to Bahrain

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Thai prosecutors have submitted a request to the Criminal Court over Bahrain's request to extradite 25-year-old Australian refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi.

The extradition hearing against detained Australian refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi has been forwarded to the Thai courts, his lawyer says.

Nadthasiri Bergman said prosecutors submitted an official request to the Criminal Court over Bahrain's request to extradite 25-year-old Mr Al-Araibi.

The court ordered Mr Al-Araibi, who is in the Bangkok Remand Prison, to appear before it at 8.30am on Monday (Bangkok time) to answer whether or not he is willing to be extradited, Bergman said.

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

The extradition case proceeded after the Thai Attorney-General's office considered the Bahraini request submitted earlier this week.

Fighting the extradition could take up to six months, during which time Mr Al-Araibi will remain behind bars in Thailand. 

Trigger for sanctions: Foster

Craig Foster, former Socceroos captain and SBS commentator, said he hoped the appeals from international sporting bodies would prompt the release of Mr Al-Araibi from detention.

But this was unfortunately not the case.

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Craig Foster calls for sporting sanctions on Thailand and Bahrain
Craig Foster calls for sporting sanctions on Thailand and Bahrain

"Obviously, with FIFA's intervention and the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) intervention on the Thai side, we were hopeful that they would be able to intervene this week to try and keep Hakeem's matter out of court," he told SBS News.

"But it seems Thailand and Bahrain are determined to follow through to at least get the hearing underway."

Mr Foster, who has been a fierce advocate for the release of Mr Al-Araibi, said it was time sport's governing bodies considered sanctions against Thailand and Bahrain.

"Now that they have taken this case forward, this is a clear indication to FIFA and the IOC that they need to step in now. That means the threat of immediate sporting sanctions in both the Olympic movement and football ... In my view, there's no other options." 

Protesters at the Sydney rally.
Protesters at the Sydney rally.
SBS News

"This is an act by the Bahrain government, which all of international sport should be absolutely incensed by," he added.

Mr Al-Araibi was convicted to 10 years' jail in absentia for his alleged role in a 2012 police station attack.

The footballer, who was detained on an Interpol Red notice when he arrived in Bangkok on November 27 for his honeymoon, denies the charges. He says he was playing in a televised football match when the attack took place and fears torture and death if returned to Bahrain.

Human rights groups and activists rallying for the 25-year-old's release hoped the Attorney-General's Office would reject the request, to prevent any diplomatic tensions between the Thai, Bahrain and Australian governments.

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Protesters call for the release of Australian footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi
Protesters call for the release of Australian footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has sent a letter to his Thai counterpart requesting Mr Al-Araibi's release, but Prayut Chan-o-cha said he would not intervene in the court process.

Chatchom Akapin, director of the international affairs department of the Attorney-General's office, said the case was criminal and not political.

"Bahrain has evidence of Hakeem's criminal wrongdoing and if he doesn't want to return to that country then he must contest that in the court and it will take months," he told Reuters.

Even if the Criminal Court grants the extradition request, Prayut still has the executive power to order his return to Australia on humanitarian grounds, activists say.

Rallies were staged in Melbourne, Sydney and other international cities on Friday to gather support for the footballer under the #SaveHakeem campaign.

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