Bahrain files extradition request for detained footballer, say Thai authorities

Chatchom Akapin, Director-General of the International Affairs Department at the Office of the Attorney General, said that the Bahraini authorities have already filed an extradition request for detained footballer and refugee Hakeem al-Araibi.

Hakeem al-Araibi (Source: gofundme.com)

Today (31 January 2019) Matichon reported Chatchom as saying that the Thai authorities have received an extradition request from Bahrain, and are currently in the process of deciding whether the request is in compliance with Thailand’s Extradition Act. If it is, the case will go to court. However, Chatchom said that if General Prayut Chan-o-cha thinks Hakeem should not be extradited, he could overrule the court, because international relations are also at stake when it comes to extradition and the executive branch has legal authority in such cases.

Hakeem was detained at Suvarnabhumi Airport on 27 November 2018. The Thai authorities acted on a disputed Interpol red notice issued by Bahrain, but Hakeem is a recognized refugee and has been granted asylum by the Australian government, and so should have been exempted from such a notice. He is currently held at Bangkok Remand Prison.

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Hakeem’s wife, who was traveling with him when he was arrested but has since returned to Australia, told BBC that extradition would place him in danger, and has written a personal plea to General Prayuth for Hakeem to be allowed to return to Australia. “His future lies in your hands. Please help my husband come home,” she says in her letter.   

Thailand has a track record of extraditing asylum seekers to countries in which they would be in danger. Hakeem’s arrest and possible extradition is now a cause of international concern. The Australian government, FIFA, the International Olympic Committee, Human Rights Watch, along with other football clubs, such as Chiang Rai United and Chiang Mai Football Club have issued statement calling for Hakeem’s release. The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) also issued a letter to General Prayuth on 29 January asking the Thai government to allow him to return to Australia. The AFC asks the Thai authorities to “ensure that Mr al-Araibi is returned safely to Australia…at the earliest possible opportunity.”

“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,” says the letter.