Refugee Footballer Hopes for Aust Return: AP

2018-12-08 - 8:54 م

Bahrain Mirror- AP: The lawyer for an Australia-based refugee soccer player facing extradition from Thailand to Bahrain is confident they will win the case based on the Gulf country's poor human rights record and the real threat to her client's life.

Nadthasiri Bergman, who has represented many refugees in Thailand, met with Hakeem AlAraibi, 25, on Friday night to discuss his upcoming court hearing after a Bangkok court issued a warrant for his arrest.

"I strongly believe that the Thai court should not extradite him to Bahrain because there is a lot of solid evidence of human rights abuse," Bergman told AAP.

Al-Araibi has been held by Thai Immigration police since November 27 after Bahrain requested his detention over a 2012 attack on a police station.

A former member of the Bahrain national football team, he fled to Australia in 2014 and was granted refugee status after claiming he was subjected to torture and threats.

Bahrain sentenced him to 10 years in jail in absentia, but AlAraibi believes he will be tortured and killed if he is returned there.

Bergman said the Thai arrest warrant, which is a formality before the hearing starts, is based on the police station attack and other charges such as causing public unrest.

Al-Araibi, who has been an outspoken critic of Bahraini royal Sheikh Salman Al Khalifa, the president of the Asian Football Federation, will be taken to a criminal court on Tuesday morning before a hearing date for the extradition case is set.

"The most important thing is that this is a political case and he was not involved in the incident," said Bergman.

Al-Araibi has said he was playing in a televised football match when the attack took place.

Bergman said her client's refugee status and personal safety would be central to the case.

"It really is real, the danger it's very real. That's why Australia granted him refugee (status)".

In its 2017-18 country report on Bahrain, Amnesty International said the government had "launched a large-scale campaign to clamp down on all forms of dissent" marked by travel bans, arrests, interrogations and arbitrary detention of human rights defenders.

Executions were also resumed after a hiatus of nearly seven years.

AlAraibi is being held in the Immigration Detention Centre but will be moved to the Bangkok Remand Prison when the hearing begins.

On Friday night he started a hunger strike in support of his case, adding he wanted to return to Australia.

"There is human rights in Australia and in Bahrain there is no human rights," he told BBC Thai.

Bergman said AlAraibi was genuinely concerned for his safety.

"He's trying to be strong, but he's really afraid that if he's sent back to Bahrain that something bad will happen to him," she said.