FIFA Asks Thai Government to Discuss Al-Araibi’s Case, Urges it to Return him to Australia, Foster Welcomes Step
2019-01-26 - 7:07 am
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): FIFA sent on Wednesday (January 23, 2019) a letter to Prayut Chan-o-cha, the prime minister of Thailand, urging him to immediately release the Bahraini footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi, and demanding discussing Al-Araibi's case with representative from the Thai government.
The Guardian newspaper said that FIFA mentioned in its letter that Al-Araibi sought refuge in Australia because he is in serious risk in Bahrain and thus he granted asylum.
In a tweet on Twitter Australian football player and analyst Craig Foster welcome the step, but said it is "not enough, at a minimum, the same letter must go to Bahrain."
"FIFA is obligated to apply maximum leverage with all relevant stakeholders. Bahrain is the other," Foster added.
The Guardian had exclusively interviewed Al-Araibi in his prison in Bangkok. Al-Araibi said in the interview that he is "losing hope" and has been in prison since November. He added "How can they keep me locked up like this? Please help me, please. In Bahrain there are no human rights and no safety for people like me."
"This is nothing to do with my conviction; Bahrain wants me back to punish me because I talked to the media in 2016 about the terrible human rights and about how Sheikh Salman is a very bad man who discriminates against Shia Muslims," said Al-Araibi.
He further stated "I am so scared of being sent back to Bahrain, so scared because 100% they will arrest me, they will torture me again, possibly they will kill me."
Sayed Ahmed Al-Wadaei, the director of advocacy at the human rights watchdog Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, said Fifa must do more to help secure the footballer's release. "While Fifa has reached out to the Thai authorities, they have yet to question their own senior vice-president Sheikh Salman. Why has he remained silent?" he said.
"FIFA must also ensure that there will be consequences for both Bahrain and Thailand's national teams if this persecution doesn't end immediately. FIFA must do everything in their power to save Hakeem's life," he added. "Every second he spends in detention should be counted as a failure of FIFA to put its full weight behind this player."
Following is FIFA's letter:
Dear Mr. Prime Minister
We are contacting you regarding the very worrying situation of Mr. Hakeem al-Araibi, a football player and Bahraini national.
Mr. Al-Araibi is currently being detained in prison in Thailand awaiting the outcome of extradition proceedings to Bahrain. This situation should not have arisen, in particular, since Al-Arabi now lives, works and plays as a professional footballer in Australia, where he has been accorded refugee status.
When according refugee status to Mr. Al-Araibi, the Australian authorities concluded that he is at serious risk of mistreatment in his home country. As stated publicly on several occasions. FIFA is therefore respectively urging the authorities of the Kingdom of Thailand to take the necessary steps to ensure Mr Al-Araibi is allowed to return safely to Australia at the earliest possible moment, in accordance with the relevant international standards.
We strongly believe that the course of action will do justice not only to Thailand's obligations under international law, but also basic humanitarian values, which we know your country and government hold dear.
In that respect, we would therefore like to kindly ask for a meeting with a high-level representative of your government at the earliest possible convenience. The objective of the meeting would be to discuss the situation of Mr. Al-Araibi and receive first-hand information on the status of the proceedings. The meeting would be joined by representatives from FIFA and FIFPro, the global union of professional football players.
We look forward for your timely response on this urgent request and sincerely thank you for your efforts towards a humane outcome of this matter.
FIFA sent a copy of the letter to the Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs Don Pramudwinai and Minister of Tourism and Sports Weerasak Kowsurat.