Thailand blames Australia for arrest of Bahraini footballer

Thailand blames Australia for arrest of Bahraini footballer

Separately, in what was called a sports sanction, Football Federation Australia (FFA) has cancelled a training trip of its Under-23s to Thailand, to protest against its continued detention of al-Araibi.

In a statement early on Wednesday, the Thai foreign affairs ministry defended Thailand's continuing detention of al-Araibi, a Bahraini refugee who is a resident of Australia.

Hakeem al-Araibi's rejection of extradition means a trial will be held to determine whether Thai authorities will send him to Bahrain, where he fears he is at risk of torture, or release him so he can return to Australia.

Former Australian national team player Francis Awaritefe, who is a vice-president of the global footballers' union FIFPro, told CNN outside the courtroom on Monday: "Hakeem is a refugee".

Thailand now claims to be caught between Bahrain, which is seeking the extradition of Araibi, and Australia, which is calling for him to be freed given his refugee status there.

Other sports governing bodies have called for Al-Araibi to be sent back to Australia, including FIFA, the Asian Football Confederation and the International Olympic Committee.

Bahraini Hakeem al-Araibi, center, leaves the criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand, Bangkok, Thailand, Monday, Feb. 4, 2019.

MFA deputy permanent-secretary Thani Thongpakdi said that Thailand and Bahrain have no extradition treaty between the two countries, which led to the use of Extradition Act, 2008, in Mr Araibi's case.

The FFA has taken the decision to scrap a preparatory camp in Thailand's capital in protest at Al-Araibi's ongoing detainment.

The 25-year-old was convicted in absentia on charges of vandalising a police station in Bahrain, but says he was out of the country playing in a match at the time of the alleged offence. "Indeed, we would not have become involved in the issue had we not received the Red Notice alert from the Australian Interpol and the subsequent formal request by Bahrain for his arrest and extradition", it said.

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"Australia's national teams are united in their support for Hakeem al-Araibi and we call on the community to continue to campaign for his release".

It said he had been granted bail to travel for a football tournament and had violated the terms while taking "special consideration granted to him as a sportsman".

"I am respectfully reminding the Thai PM that Australians feel very strongly about this".

She said this was also confirmed by prosecutors at yesterday's hearing.

The Thai government has also come under heavy criticism for its harsh treatment of the case and of the prisoner.

The statement suggested that Australia and Bahrain talk with each other to work out a mutually acceptable agreement on al-Araibi's fate, rather than have a Thai court decide it.

"So between now and then, Hakeem will have to be in custody for at least until August", Trumph Jalichandra said, adding that he could only be released sooner if Bahrain withdrew its request.

Araibi could stay in jail until August, as the court hearing his case will take two to three months to deliver its ruling after the next hearing, set for late April, a spokesman for the attorney general's office said.

The latter hashtag consisted mostly of tweets that either defended the "fair" court system now mulling the refugee footballer's fate, or put the blame back on Australia.

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