Hakeem Al-Araibi: IOC discusses detention of Bahraini footballer with the UN

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

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach has discussed the "worrying situation" of Bahraini footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi's arrest in Thailand with the United Nations.

Al-Araibi, 25, 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 in 2014 for vandalism but denies the charges.

Fifa has said the player is at "serious risk of mistreatment" in Bahrain.

The IOC member for Thailand, Khunying Patama Leeswadtrakul, has contacted the government of Thailand to find a solution based on "basic human and humanitarian values".

In a statement, the IOC added: "The IOC president has personally discussed this worrying situation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

"The High Commissioner also expressed that UNHCR is very concerned about this case since Al-Araibi is a recognised refugee and should be allowed to return to Australia."

Al-Araibi fled to Australia in 2014, where he was granted political asylum in 2017 and plays for Pascoe Vale in Melbourne.

In 2014, he was sentenced in his absence 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 last year.

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, 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

Earlier this week, Fifa general secretary Fatma Samoura contacted the Thai 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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