Bahraini footballer pleads in court against deportation

Middle East
Hakeem Al-Araibi led by policemen Image copyright EPA

Bahraini footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi has urged a court in Bangkok not to extradite him to his home country.

Al-Araibi, who had been playing in Australia after being granted asylum there, was arrested in Thailand when he arrived with his wife on honeymoon.

He is wanted in Bahrain, where he was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in jail for vandalising a police station.

Al-Araibi says he is innocent and that he was tortured in Bahrain for his political opposition.

The Bangkok court extended his detention by 60 days, during which he can file an objection against the extradition request.

The BBC’s Jonathan Head in Bangkok said Al-Araibi arrived at court in leg shackles, shouting: “Please don’t send me to Bahrain”.

He told the court he rejected the extradition request, saying he was detained and tortured for opposing the government, before he fled to Australia more than four years ago.

Former Australian football captain Craig Foster and other campaigners were at the court to support the player.

“Your wife sends her love! Hakeem, Australia is with you, mate,” Mr Foster shouted.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Over the past weeks, supporters have held protests in Australia

The player was given refugee status by Australia in 2014, the same year he was sentenced in absentia by Bahrain to 10 years in prison for vandalising a police station.

Campaigners from the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) say he is at grave risk of torture if he is deported.

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

Bahrain insists that his trial was fair and that he should return home if he wants to launch an appeal against the conviction.

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