Thailand blames Aust for al-Araibi plight


Al-Araibi, a refugee who lives and plays for Melbourne-based Pascoe Vale in Australia, has been held in Thailand since November at the request of Bahrain after being arrested in Bangkok while on honeymoon.

Thailand defended on Wednesday its arrest of a Bahraini footballer with refugee status in Australia, saying officials only detained him because Australian authorities sent an Interpol "red notice" after he boarded a plane to Bangkok.

Thailand has been widely criticised across the world for failing to allow Al-Araibi to return to Australia rather than be extradited to Bahrain, where he fears he will be tortured and possibly killed.

The Foreign Ministry's statement seems to contradict an earlier claim by Thai Immigration chief Police Lieutenant General Surachet Hakparn that Bahrain knew of al-Araibi's travel plans prior to his arrival.

In his first letter, Morrison called for Thailand to send al-Araibi back to Australia.

On Monday the Thai criminal court gave al-Araibi's lawyers 60 days to prepare a defence to Bahrain's request and refused bail.

Al-Araibi has said he was tortured in Bahrain after his 2012 arrest and fled in 2014 to Australia, which granted him political asylum in 2017.

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He was shackled on Monday when he appeared in court in Thailand where the formal hearings in his extradition trial were set down to start on April 22.

"Thailand is highly culpable for Hakeem's detention and still has the power at any point to bypass the court proceedings and make a decision to send him home to Australia".

The 25-year-old was convicted in absentia on charges of vandalizing a police station in Bahrain, but says he was out of the country playing in a match at the time of the alleged offence.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has increased pressure on Thailand to release al-Araibi.

Former Australia and Crystal Palace defender Craig Foster and the Australian and worldwide players' unions have been leading a campaign for the release of Al-Araibi.

"The smile when he heard about [Chiellini] and [Drogba], never seen anything like it - a footballer's passion never dies", Foster wrote.

"In 2019, Thailand will launch Thai-mart which is the biggest economic centre in Bahrain and the import and exports between Bahrain and Thailand are expected to be worth around US$400m annually".

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It also said that under the Public Prosecutors Act, the case against Al-Araibi could be withdrawn as it was not in the public interest, nor related to public safety or security.

"We are in the process of rearranging our pre-tournament camp in another Asian nation", Arnold said.

On Tuesday, FFA pledged 10,000 Australian dollars (Bt220,000) to kick-start fundraising efforts to help continue the global advocacy campaign to return al-Araibi to Australia.

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne called on Thai authorities to use their discretion in Araibi's case.

He added the court will take up to three months to complete al-Araibi's extradition case, meaning he will be in Thai custody "at least until August".

Thailand's Attorney-General is expected to hold a news briefing on the case.

AlAraibi was allegedly tortured by Bahraini authorities for his brother's political actions and sentenced to a decade in jail for the alleged vandalism.

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