Ahead of refugee footballer Hakeem Ali al-Araibi’s extradition hearing in a Bangkok court today, Amnesty International’s Thailand campaigner, Katherine Gerson, said:
“The Thai authorities should stop all proceedings relating to this absurd, cruel and cynical extradition request. It is well known that Hakeem survived torture in Bahrain and that his relatives continue to face persecution there. Hakeem and his wife have found sanctuary in Australia; he should not spend another day in detention and should be allowed home, to Melbourne, immediately.
“The Thai government should see that Bahrain’s sole motive is to further punish Hakeem for the peaceful political opinions he expressed. He is at grave risk of unjust imprisonment, torture and other ill-treatment if he is returned to Bahrain. Interpol rightly withdrew the ‘red notice’ for Hakeem, which was in breach of their own refugee protection policy.
“This case has made global headlines and shocked the world. As they previously did for Saudi refugee Rahaf Mohammed, the Thai authorities now have a chance to show their commitment to protecting refugees by releasing Hakeem and tossing out Bahrain’s extradition request. To honour the request would blatantly violate international law.”
On 1 February, Thai prosecutors submitted a request for al-Araibi’s extradition on behalf of the government of Bahrain. Travelling on an Australian travel document, al-Araibi was detained upon arrival in Bangkok on 27 November last year, based on an erroneous Interpol red notice. He remains in remand in Klong Prem Remand Prison.
As part of extradition proceedings, al-Araibi is expected to appear in court today (4 February), where he will be asked if he is willing to be extradited to Bahrain.
A former player of Bahrain’s national soccer team, he has been a peaceful and outspoken critic of the authorities since he was detained in November 2012 and subjected to torture. He fled to Australia, where he obtained asylum in 2017. Bahraini authorities have an appalling track record of cracking down on peaceful dissent.
In 2014, at the close of an unfair trial, the Bahraini authorities sentenced al-Araibi in absentia to 10 years in prison on charges of attacking a police station. His brother is currently serving a jail sentence on the same charges.
Under international law, it is prohibited to return an individual to a territory or place where they would be at real risk of suffering torture or other serious human rights violations. Thailand has in recent years undertaken to strengthen its respect for this prohibition, including by pledging at the UN Leaders’ Summit on Refugees in September 2016 to enact anti-torture and disappearance legislation containing protections against such forcible returns.