1 December 2018 – A Bahraini professional football player, Hakeem Ali Mohamed Ali AlAraibi, who was granted asylum in Australia in 2017, has been placed in Suan Plu (Bangkok) Immigration Detention Center and is facing deportation to Bahrain by the Thai authorities.
AlAraibi was due to return to Melbourne tonight having been told to book a flight. A few hours before his scheduled departure, AlAraibi was informed that he would not be flying to Australia and was taken to a detention centre in Bangkok instead.
This morning, the Bahraini Embassy in Thailand issued statements on Twitter stating that they are “following up with the relevant security authorities” and that “the suspect is wanted for security cases”.
On 27 November 2018, AlAraibi travelled from Melbourne to Bangkok. Upon his arrival at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), he was detained under Interpol’s “Red Notice”, issued upon the request of Bahrain on the basis of AlAraibi’s criminal conviction in 2014.
The issuance of the Red Notice violates the formal policy of the Interpol Executive, which states that the processing of red notices “will not be allowed if… the the status of refugee or asylum-seeker has been confirmed”.
Returning registered refugees to territories where they would face a real risk of persecution, torture, or other ill-treatment violates Thailand’s obligations under international law. Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director for Human Rights Watch stated that “under no circumstances can he be sent to Bahrain.”
Commenting, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), said: “If Hakeem is extradited to Bahrain, he is at great risk of facing torture and unlawful imprisonment. His extradition would constitute to refoulement and therefore would be a clear breach of international law. The UN and Australian authorities must fight to prevent a disastrous outcome.”
In November 2012, AlAraibi was arrested and tortured by the Bahraini authorities, allegedly due to the political activities of his brother. He has since spoken publicly about his torture. “They blindfolded me,” he said. “They held me really tight, and one started to beat my legs really hard, saying: ‘You will not play soccer again. We will destroy your future.’ ”
In January 2014, Bahraini authorities sentenced AlAraibi to 10 years imprisonment in absentia on the charge of vandalising a police station, which he strongly deny.
AlAraibi fled to Australia in May 2014, where he was granted refugee status in November 2017. This visa allows AlAraibi to remain in Australia indefinitely and to travel to and from Australia, so long as he does not travel to Bahrain, the country from which he has sought protection.
AlAraibi has been very critical of the current president of the Asian Football Confederation, Sheikh Salman Alkhalifa, especially during his candidacy for FIFA presidency in 2016. AlAraibi conducted interviews with media outlets, including the New York Times, the Guardian and ITV, and discussed details of the torture he suffered in 2012 while in the custody of Bahraini law enforcement.
Alaraibi is a football player for Pascoe Vale FC in Melbourne.