Australian FM Pressures Thailand over Refugee Footballer’s Detention: 'We are Very Concerned'
2019-01-10 - 8:42 p
Bahrain Mirror: Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne has reiterated Australia's deep concerns over Thailand's detention of a Melbourne-based refugee footballer in a meeting with senior Thai government figures, reported SBS News.
Senator Payne met with her Thai counterpart Don Pramudwinai and deputy prime minister and justice minister Prajin Juntong on Thursday in Bangkok, where she again raised Hakeem Al-Araibi's case.
"The Thai government is most certainly aware of the importance of this matter to Australia," Senator Payne told reporters in Bangkok on Thursday. "We are very concerned about his detention, very concerned about any potential for return of Mr Al-Araibi to Bahrain," Senator Payne added.
She said the semi-professional soccer player had been visited a number of times by Australian officials, with legal proceedings ongoing.
Former Socceroos captain Craig Foster said the "very brave" young man should be returned to Australia.
"The silence of the Asian Football Confederation is not just confounding, it's absolutely disgraceful under our human rights obligations within the entire football community," he told reporters in Sydney on Thursday.
FIFA has reaffirmed its desire for the Bahraini to be returned to Australia rather than extradited to his former homeland.
"FIFA is therefore calling on all the relevant authorities (in Bahrain, Thailand and Australia) to take the necessary steps to ensure that Mr Hakeem Al-Araibi is allowed to return safely to Australia where he can resume his career as a professional footballer," world soccer's powerful governing body said in a statement.
Al-Araibi was on his first overseas trip with his wife since fleeing Bahrain to Australia in 2014 and being granted refugee status in November 2017.
He was sentenced in absentia in 2014 to 10 years in prison for allegedly vandalising a Bahraini police station, which he denies.
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