Bahrain footballer Hakeem al-Araibi pleads: ‘Don’t send me to Bahrain’


Hakeem al-Araibi, a refugee footballer fighting extradition to Bahrain, will spend at least two more months in jail following a hearing at court in Thailand.

“Don’t send me to Bahrain,” the 25-year-old pleaded as he appeared barefoot and shackled at the hearing in Bangkok on Monday.

He now faces a further 60 days in jail after a judge refused his request for bail while his legal team prepare a defence.

Despite being granted asylum by Australia, al-Araibi was arrested on his honeymoon by Thai authorities in November following an Interpol red notice which was later revoked.

Ahead of today’s hearing, Sky News spoke to al-Araibi at Bangkok’s Remand Prison where he is currently sharing a cell with 48 other inmates.

During the strictly controlled 15-minute time slot he repeated his growing fears that he will never see his wife again if he is extradited to Bahrain.

“Maybe they will kill me but 100% I know they will beat me because they beat me when I was 17,” he said.

“When they arrested me before, they tortured me, they beat me for nothing and said ‘you will never play football again.'”

A player at Melbourne’s Pascoe Vale football club before his arrest, he now tries to train in his overcrowded cell but admits, “if I stay here a long time I will never play football again. My body is weak.”

A critic of the government and royal family, authorities in Bahrain say he committed an act of vandalism on a police station in 2014, claims he rejects saying he was playing in a televised football match at the time of the alleged crime.

Reporters, campaigners and diplomats from 14 countries, including the UK, lined up to greet the footballer at Bangkok’s Ratchadaphisek criminal court on Monday morning.

The case has drawn appeals from Australia’s prime minister and soccer’s world governing body, FIFA, for Thailand to release al-Araibi and send him back to Australia, on the grounds that he could face torture in Bahrain, which sought the extradition.

The vice president of FIFPro, a union of the FIFA footballers, said outside the court that if Hakeem al-Araibi is not released, his organisation will be pressing for sanctions against the Football Association of Thailand and the Bahraini Football Association.

Thailand’s deputy foreign minister has said the matter is for the judiciary to decide.

But Evan Jones, spokesman for the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network, told Sky News: “Prime Minister Chan-o-cha has the authority to intervene in Hakeem’s case at any point.

“As a refugee, and as someone that has fled Bahrain in fear of his life, it is imperative that he intervenes immediately.”

At night he says he is kept awake by thoughts of his wife, petrified that he will never get to see her face again.

“Tell my wife I love her. I am trying to be strong,” he told supporters as he left court today.

Authorities in Bahrain deny allegations of torture and say al-Araibi could challenge his conviction if he returns home.

Defence lawyers have until 5 April to submit a written appeal before the next scheduled hearing on 22 April.

(c) Sky News 2019: Bahrain footballer Hakeem al-Araibi pleads: ‘Don’t send me to Bahrain’

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