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Thailand Urged to Refuse Bahraini Refugee Footballer Hakeem Al Araibi s Extradition

Thailand Urged to Refuse Bahraini Refugee Footballer Hakeem Al Araibi s Extradition

A football player who has refugee status in Australia told a Thai court Monday that he refuses to be voluntarily extradited to Bahrain, which has asked for his return to serve a prison sentence for a crime he denies committing.

Araibi had played for Bahrain´s national youth team before he fled his homeland and was granted asylum in Australia, where he plays for the semi-professional club Pascoe Vale FC. He walked into the Criminal Court in the capital in bare feet with shackles around his ankles, escorted by Thai security officials.

The Melbourne-based soccer player faces his next scheduled hearing on April 22 and must stay in Thai detention until then.

Al-Araibi was arrested at Suvarnabhumi Airport on November 27 after a honeymoon trip with his wife while reportedly en route to Australia, where he was granted residency about four years ago.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne reiterated her government's call for the Thai government to release al-Araibi so he can return home to Australia. It says he has an opportunity to appeal his conviction in the country's courts.

"We believe if Hakeem is not released there have to be some sanctions levied on Bahrain and Thailand", global players' union FIFPro's vice president Francis Awaritefe, a former Australian football player, told reporters outside the court.

"Hakeem, Australia is with you, mate", Foster shouted.

Human rights groups have similarly called for Thailand to refuse the extradition, with Evan Jones, the programme director for Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network telling CNN that al-Araibi is a torture survivor and "it is nearly certain that he'd suffer the same fate again if returned to Bahrain".

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This came few weeks after the Brazil attacker said that every top player "has to play" in the Premier League. PSG won the game with an early goal from Edinson Cavani and a late one from Angel Di Maria.

A court filing made last week by Thai prosecutors noted that while Thailand and Bahrain do not have an extradition treaty, extradition is still possible by law if Bahrain makes an official request, which they did, and if the crime is punishable by over a year, is not politically motivated or a military violation.

Federico Addiechi, head of sustainability and diversity at Fifa, said football's governing body had stopped short of backing sporting sanctions against Bahrain and Thailand, but supported al-Araibi.

The detention of a recognised refugee such as Hakeem sends the message to the world that Thailand is "not safe for refugees", said Human Rights Watch's Phil Robertson.

"FIFA is committed to protecting human rights".

In 2014, he was sentenced to ten years in absentia for the vandalism charge. Football is with you'.

Speaking to CNN from the prison last week, Al-Araibi said that he believes Bahrain has targeted him now because of a 2016 interview he gave to German channel, ARDTV, saying that Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President and Bahraini national, Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, was not fit for the presidency of FIFA.

The soccer player says he fled persecution in the island Kingdom located halfway between Qatar and Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf, which has a majority Shia population ruled by a Sunni Muslim monarchy.

Bahrain, which issued an arrest warrant after finding him guilty of criminal charges in 2014, learnt about his overseas trip and requested Thailand to detain him, Don said.

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