Bahraini footballer arrested in Thailand fears torture if extradited
Authorities in Thailand arrested a Bahraini football player and may extradite him back to his home country, the New York Times reported on Thursday.
Hakeem al-Araibi, who has refugee status in Australia and plays for a Melbourne football club, travelled to Thailand with his wife for a honeymoon but was arrested upon arrival, the US newspaper said.
Al-Araibi fears that if he gets sent back to Bahrain, he will “be tortured again,” he told the Times.
"This might be my last message. I still don’t know whether I will be deported to Bahrain tomorrow. I appeal to the United Nations, individual states, FIFA, footballers, and all people, as my fate is now in danger and my future will soon be over," he told the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.
The case marks a test for the global football body, FIFA, which has pledged to uphold players' rights, as well as their safety and security, according to its Human Rights Policy handbook.
“FIFA is committed to respecting all internationally recognised human rights and shall strive to promote the protection of these rights,” it says.
In a statement to the Times, FIFA said al-Araibi should return safely to Australia.
“FIFA supports the calls for the Thai authorities to allow Mr. al-Araibi to return to Australia where he currently enjoys refugee status at the earliest possible moment,” the FIFA statement said.
FIFA supports the calls for the Thai authorities to allow Mr. al-Araibi to return to Australia where he currently enjoys refugee status at the earliest possible moment
- FIFA statement to the New York Times
Al-Araibi said Bahraini authorities arrested and tortured him in 2012 for his brother’s alleged participation in pro-democracy protests, which broke out in 2011 in the small Gulf state, the Guardian reported.
“They wanted to hurt me so I could not play football again,” al-Araibi told the Times.
He became a political refugee in 2014 after a Bahraini court sentenced him to 10 years in prison in absentia for allegedly burning down a police station.
The footballer claims he was playing in a televised match when the crime reportedly took place.
In 2016, al-Araibi criticised Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, a member of the Bahraini royal family, for arresting athletes that took part in the 2011 protests.
At the time, al-Khalifa narrowly lost his bid to become FIFA’s president. He is currently a FIFA vice-president and head of the Asian Football Confederation.
Crackdown on opponents
Bahrain has experienced periodic bouts of civil unrest and sporadic violence since 2011, when protests against the country's government were crushed by security forces with the help of forces from neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
In response, the country’s Sunni rulers launched a crackdown on opponents of their rule, many of whom come from Bahrain’s Shia majority community.
Opposition activists and politicians have routinely been arrested and jailed, political parties have been dissolved and the main Shia group, al-Weqaf, has been banned.
Bahraini authorities accuse Iran of provoking unrest in the kingdom, an allegation Tehran denies.
In September, Bahrain charged almost 170 people with forming a “terrorist organisation” inspired by the Lebanese group Hezbollah.
Human rights groups have frequently said cases against activists in Bahrain - men and women, religious and secular - fail to meet the basic standards of fair trials.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch categorise many of those jailed as prisoners of conscience.