Bahraini footballer pleads in court against deportation

A-League players campaigns for Hakeem

A-League players campaigns for Hakeem

Refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi arrives at court in Bangkok on Monday, as the campaign against his possible extradition to Bahrain continued. Bahrain wants him returned to serve a 10-year prison sentence he received in absentia in 2014 for vandalising a police station, which he denies.

"Don't send me to Bahrain", said the footballer, who was arrested in Thailand in November while on his honeymoon and says that he faces persecution and torture if sent back to Bahrain.

An initial court date of April 22 has been set for the case with no bail made available.

Al-Araibi was arrested in December as he was transiting to Australia via Suvarnabhumi Airport with his wife.

The extradition case proceeded after the Thai Attorney-General's office considered the Bahraini request submitted last week.

Araibi was tortured by Bahraini authorities because of his brother's political activities during the Arab Spring uprising in 2011, New York-based Human Rights Watch has said.

It accuses him of vandalising a police station, charges he denies and said was politically motivated.

He faces a further 60 days in a Thai jail and he continues his extradition fight.

He shuffled past a crowd of Australian journalist and supporters as Thai prison guards held him by the arms.

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Australian embassy staff were in the court room waiting for proceedings to begin, along with diplomatic staff from a long list of countries, worldwide football body FIFA, human rights groups and a large throng of media.

"You can not have the privileges of the worldwide community if you are not prepared to live by its rules or behave by its standards", said John Didulica, Professional Footballers Australia chief executive.

'Why is Bahrain doing this?'

The report indicates instances of "arbitrary or unlawful killings by security forces; allegations of torture of detainees and prisoners; harsh and potentially life-threatening conditions of detention; arbitrary arrest and detention", among others.

Al-Araibi plays for Pascoe Vale Football Club in Melbourne and has been critical of the Bahrain government, according to the rights group.

Dressed in a brown prison uniform with his bare feet shackled, Al-Araibi appeared at a Bangkok criminal court on Monday to launch a formal challenge against being sent back to a country where he claims he was imprisoned and tortured.

Appeals for his release have been made by the global football body FIFA and by the worldwide Olympic Committee, as well as several governments, including Australia, where he plays for a Melbourne club.

Speaking to CNN from the prison last week, Al-Araibi said that he believes Bahrain has targeted him now because of a 2016 interview he gave to German channel, ARDTV, saying that Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President and Bahraini national, Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, was not fit for the presidency of FIFA. They don't respect human rights.

Jones said al-Araibi has not been able to sleep properly for days and has fallen sick from being in an overcrowded prison. He fled to Australia where he was granted refugee status in 2017.

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