“Don’t send me to Bahrain”: Hakeem al-Araibi given 60 days to prepare defence

Earlier today (4 February 2019), detained footballer and refugee Hakeem al-Araibi appeared at an extradition hearing at the Ratchadapisek Criminal Court, after prosecutors submitted a request for his extradition on behalf of the Bahraini government last week.

(Middle) Hakeem al-Araibi (Photo from Banrasdr Photo)

His attorneys asked the court for a 60-day extension to prepare an objection. The judge gave them until 5 April to file a written appeal. The next hearing is now scheduled for 22 April.

 

The Guardian reported that Hakeem told the court he refused to be extradited, saying that the charges against him were politically motivated. He was convicted of vandalizing a police station and was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison, but he claimed he was playing in a televised football match at the time of the alleged vandalism. NSP Legal Office, Hakeem’s legal representative, said that Hakeem told the court he fears his life would be in danger, and that he fears political and religious prosecution if he is returned to Bahrain.

“I’m scared. I’m scared of getting sent back to Bahrain. They could kill me. I didn’t do anything. I was playing in the Bahrain league and it was broadcast live on TV when the incident happened. Please save me. Don’t believe Bahrain. They do this to me because I’m Shia,” Hakeem, who was brought to court in shackles and a prison uniform, told activist Nattha Mahattana. He has reportedly been imprisoned and tortured for his open criticism of the Bahraini government and for his brother’s involvement in anti-government demonstrations.

Hakeem is an UN-recognised refugee and was granted asylum in Australia. His case has since caught global attention, and international pressure from human rights groups and sports federations is now intensifying. This morning’s hearing was attended by representatives from over ten embassies and international human rights organizations.

Ahead of his hearing this morning, Amnesty International called for the Thai authorities to “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…He should not spend another day in detention and should be allowed home, to Melbourne, immediately,” said Katherine Gerson, Amnesty International’s Thailand campaigner, “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.”

Since his arrest in November 2018, Hakeem has now been in jail for almost 70 days, and, since he was earlier denied bail, will be detained for a further 60 days while his attorneys prepare a defence against his extradition.