Thailand receives Bahrain request for detained football player

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand officially received a request from Bahrain to extradite a detained football player who has refugee status in Australia.

Bahrain’s request for the extradition of Hakeem al-Araibi was received on Monday and forwarded to prosecutors for deliberation, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Busadee Santipitaks said yesterday.

The Bahraini national team player said he fled his home country due to political repression. Bahrain wants him returned to serve a prison sentence for a charge he denies.

Al-Araibi was detained upon his arrival in Bangkok in November while on a holiday, and a court ruled in December he could be held for 60 days pending the completion of an extradition request by Bahrain.

The attorney general is expected to decide al-Araibi’s case within a week, said Director General for the Attorney General’s International Affairs Department Chatchom Akapin.

Chatchom said Thailand would not extradite al-Araibi “if the sought extradition is political”. He said, “If it is, then the request must be denied.”

Human rights groups, football governing bodies and activists have made an international push for Thailand to release al-Araibi, 25, who plays for the semi-professional football club Pascoe Vale FC in Melbourne.

Former Australia captain Craig Foster said on Monday at FIFA headquarters that Bahrain’s formal request made al-Araibi’s plight an emergency.

File photo shows prison guards escort Bahraini football player Hakeem al-Araibi from a court in Bangkok, Thailand. – AP