Thailand blames Australia for arrest of refugee Bahraini footballer

Hakeem Al Araibi Drogba

Chelsea legend Drogba throws his support behind #SaveHakeem

Former Australia national team captain Craig Foster and the Australian and worldwide players' unions have been leading a campaign for the release al-Araibi, who plays for a semi-professional club in Australia.

A recognised refugee and permanent resident in Australia, Al-Araibi has been wrongly imprisoned in Bangkok for more than two months, waiting for Bahrain to submit a formal extradition request to the Thai courts.

Thailand faces increasing global pressure for the detention and possible extradition of a Bahraini football player as a social media campaign takes off for his release.

Al-Araibi has lived in Australia for about five years with refugee status and Australian residency after fleeing what he described as torture in his native nation.

Thailand has come under great pressure from Australia's government, sporting bodies and human rights groups to send Hakeem al-Araibi back to Australia.

On Monday, Mr Araibi told the Criminal Court 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.

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It said Thailand only became involved "by chance" after a police bureau that handles Interpol matters in Australia notified Thai authorities that Araibi had boarded a flight to Bangkok and was the subject of a "red notice" initiated by Bahrain.

"Thailand is highly culpable for Hakeem's detention and still has the power at any point to bypass the court proceedings and make a decision to send him home to Australia". Australian police acknowledge doing so, but there have been questions raised about why the Red Notice appeared to have been issued just before al-Araibi departed on his trip, and whether Bahraini authorities had been tipped off about his travel plans.

He was arrested by Thai authorities on November 27 at Bahrain's request.

The sight of a chained al-Araibi inspired Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to second a second letter to Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha following his first correspondence in January.

Al-Araibi, 25, a former Bahraini national team player, says he fled his home country due to political repression.

"The smile when he heard about [Chiellini] and [Drogba], never seen anything like it - a footballer's passion never dies", Foster wrote.

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"I'm respectfully reminding the Thai prime minister that Australians feel very strongly about this, very, very strongly".

"Mr al-Araibi, as with defendants in all criminal cases in Bahrain, is guaranteed full legal rights and protections with full access to proper representation", it said in a statement on Wednesday.

Senator Payne said she had also encouraged Bahrain's government not to to proceed with the extradition.

Bahrain's embassy in Bangkok said al-Araibi was a fugitive who should be returned.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the Thai attorney-general has confirmed that the Extradition Act allows for such discretion. "He is at grave risk of unjust imprisonment, torture and other ill-treatment if he is returned to Bahrain".

The Thai attorney general's Office told reporters Wednesday that with extradition requests bail would be opposed.

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"So between now and then, Hakeem will have to be in custody for at least until August", Trumph Jalichandra said.

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