Hakeem Al-Araibi: Fifa contacts Thai authorities over detention of Bahraini footballer

Protests supporting Hakeen Al-Araibi
Supporters of Hakeen Al-Araibi in Australia have campaigned for his safe return

Fifa has contacted the Thailand government over the case of Bahraini footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi.

The 25-year-old, who holds refugee status in Australia, is being held in a Bangkok prison on an Interpol warrant issued by Bahrain.

He was sentenced in Bahrain for vandalism but denies the charges.

In a letter to Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Fifa says the former Bahrain player is "at serious risk of mistreatment in his home country".

The footballer fled to Australia in 2014. He was granted political asylum in 2017 and plays for Melbourne football club Pascoe Vale.

In 2014, he was sentenced in absentia in Bahrain to 10 years in prison for vandalising a police station.

He was on a holiday in Thailand when authorities detained him at a Bangkok airport on 27 November.

He fears he will be tortured and possibly killed if he is extradited back to his home country and in an interview with the Guardian newspaper,external-link said the ongoing case had left him "terrified" and "losing hope".

Sydney FC fans give their support
Fans of Sydney FC have given their support to the footballer

Fifa general secretary Fatma Samoura has contacted the prime minister seeking a speedy resolution to the case.

"This situation should not have arisen, in particular, since Mr Al-Araibi now lives, works and plays as a professional footballer in Australia, where he has been accorded refugee status," she said in the letter.

"As stated publicly on several occasions, Fifa is respectfully urging the authorities of the Kingdom of Thailand to take the necessary steps to ensure that Mr Al-Araibi is allowed to return safely to Australia at the earliest possible moment, in accordance with the relevant international standards.

"We would like to kindly ask for a meeting with a high-level representative of your government at the earliest possible convenience.

"The objective of the meeting would be to discuss the situation of Mr Al-Araibi and receive first-hand information on the status of the proceedings. The meeting would be joined by representatives from Fifa and FlFPro, the global union of professional football players."

Al-Araibi has been a vocal critic of Bahraini authorities and Human Rights Watch (HRW) says he is also being targeted because of his brother's political activism.

Last year, he told HRW that he had already been tortured in Bahrain following Arab Spring protests in 2012.

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