Wife of Hakeem Al-Araibi sends desperate pleas to Canada and New Zealand to intervene


The wife of Hakeem Al-Araibi has appealed to the Canadian and New Zealand leaders to help, imploring that 'time is running out'.

The wife of Australian refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi has written to Justin Trudeau and Jacinda Ardern in a desperate bid for help over her husband's detention in Thailand. 

In letters reported by the Guardian, she urged the Canadian and New Zealand leaders to act, warning that a decision to return him to Bahrain could mean "possible death".

Araibi's wife, who did not want to be named, cited the recent case of Rahaf al-Qunun who was granted asylum in Canada after fleeing her home country of Saudi Arabia. 

In a letter to the Canadian prime minister, she wrote: "Time is running out, and I am pleading desperately to you as a humanitarian, and someone who would not hesitate to stand with justice, please please help my husband."

Echoing the message in her letter to Ms Ardern, she wrote that her husband was "in certain danger of persecution, imprisonment and possible death” should he be extradited back to Bahrain. 

“I am terrified that the final decision to deport him will take place within the next few days," she wrote.

It comes as, after weeks of pressure, the Asian Football Confederation urged Thailand's government to release Australian refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi.

The regional governing body, which has been criticised for its silence on the issue, is run by President Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, who is a member of Bahrain's ruling family. 

World governing body FIFA also released a statement on Tuesday in which Secretary-General Fatma Samoura called on the Thai and Bahraini authorities to ensure Araibi could "go back safely to Australia as a matter of urgency".

Hakeem al-Araibi and Thai prison guards
Hakeem Al-Araibi has lived in Melbourne since being granted refugee status.

The footballer has been detained by Thai authorities since arriving in Bangkok on his honeymoon on November 27 over an Interpol red notice that has since been lifted. 

The AFC said on Saturday that Sheikh Salman had been rescued from matters relating to West Asia 18 months ago "to ensure there were no accusations of a conflict of interest" and that Vice President Praful Patel would oversee the Araibi case.

"I hereby respectfully request Your Excellency to take the necessary steps to ensure that Mr AI Araibi is returned safely to Australia, where he has been granted Refugee Status, at the earliest possible opportunity," Mr Patel said.

"The AFC joins FIFA and other stakeholders in the belief that his release will respect Thailand's obligations under international law and demonstrate the basic human and humanitarian values, which are held dearly by your country."

Meanwhile, Mr Al-Araibi has issued a heartfelt message to his wife, saying he is heartbroken to hear her voice, his lawyer Nadthasiri Bergman said.

"For seven years, not a day went by that I did not hear my wife's voice," the statement said. 

"Now I'm in jail for a crime I did not commit. She is out there. Alone.

"It breaks my heart not to know when I will see her or hear her voice again. Please fight for me."

The development comes days after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged Thailand not to extradite Mr Al-Araibi.

In a letter to his Thai counterpart Prayuth Chan-ocha, Mr Morrison is believed to have pointed out that Mr Al-Araibi has a permanent protection visa, stressing the thorough process Australian authorities undertake before issuing such a visa.

Hours earlier, Bahrain had filed extradition documents and lashing out at "intolerable" external interference.

Ms Bergman said the footballer's spirits sank after she told him Bahrain was proceeding with the extradition.

"He's happy that there's a lot of people working on this case. But when he thinks there's the possibility the Thai government will extradite him, he's terrified," she said.

"He said: 'I was tortured before and I'll be tortured again. I don't want to face that again.'"

Mr Al-Araibi, 25, was sentenced to 10 years' jail in absentia, despite submitting evidence he was playing football at the time of the alleged crime.

Writing that he had taken a personal interest in Mr Al-Araibi's case, Mr Morrison told the Thai leader that returning the semi-professional footballer to Bahrain would infringe his human rights. 

Former Socceroo and SBS commentator Craig Foster - who has been fiercely advocating for the release of the footballer - thanked Mr Morrison on Twitter following the letter.

Mr Foster visited to FIFA's headquarters in Zurich on Monday to deliver a petition with more than 50,000 signatures for the safe release of Mr Al-Araibi.

The former Socceroo held talks with FIFA general secretary Fatma Samoura and urged the football governing body to increase its contact with the governments in Bahrain and Thailand to secure Mr Al-Araibi's release.

"This matter has become an absolute emergency," Foster said after the meeting.

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