FIFA supports campaign that led to withdrawal of Thai extradition case against refugee footballer at risk of false imprisonment in Bahrain
In November 2018, refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi was detained in Thailand during his honeymoon, after an Interpol red notice was issued for his arrest
Al-Araibi has previously shared publicly that Bahraini authorities had arrested and tortured him in detention, allegedly for his brother’s political activities during the Arab Spring. He escaped to Australia in 2014 where he was granted refugee status and has lived since. Bahrain sentenced him in absentia to 10 years in prison for allegedly vandalising a police station – charges he denies, pointing out that at the time of the supposed crime, he was playing in a televised football match for his local club Alshabab in Bahrain.
Following Al Araibi's detention in Thailand, human rights organisations and advocates from within the sporting world called on FIFA to stand with Al-Araibi and use its leverage to prevent the footballer's forced return to Bahrain. Similar calls to action were made of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
FIFA issued a statement requesting that "all the relevant authorities (in Bahrain, Thailand and Australia)... take the necessary steps to ensure that.. Al-Araibi is allowed to return safely to Australia where he can resume his career as a professional footballer". The sporting body subsequently addressed a letter to the Thai Prime Minister "requesting a meeting and urging him to solve this issue at the earliest possible moment, in accordance with the relevant international standards". The IOC backed FIFA's calls for Hakeem's release.
On February 11, 2019 media outlets reported Hakeem's release after Thai authorities withdrew the extradition case against him. Chatchom Akapin, the director general of the international affairs department of the attorney general’s office, said the primary reason was because “the Bahrain government no longer wants to pursue the extradition” of al-Araibi.
Coverage from The Guardian and Human Rights Watch as well as statements from FIFA are available below.
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FIFA is extremely pleased to see Hakeem Al-Araibi released from prison in Thailand and allowed to travel back to his home in Australia. This is the outcome we have worked for together with a broad coalition of human rights organisations, governments and the wider football community over the past two months.