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FIFA Demands Return of Refugee Footballer to Australia, Not Bahrain

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FIFA stated that Hakeem al-Araibi, who is currently being detained in prison in Thailand awaiting the outcome of extradition proceedings to Bahrain, should be allowed to return safely to Australia where he can resume his career as a professional footballer.

In a statement on Wednesday, FIFA stressed it is again calling for a humane and speedy resolution of the case concerning the player Hakeem al-Araibi.

Thai authorities arrested al-Araibi, who plays football in Australia in a refugee status, upon his arrival at Bangkok airport in November, at the notice of Interpol issued at the request of Bahrain.

In 2014, al-Araibi was sentenced in absentia by a politically controlled court to 10 years in prison on charges of vandalizing a police station. He denied committing any crime. Minutes before the time of the supposed crime, al-Araibi was playing in a live, televised football match, and it would have been virtually impossible for him to arrive at the scene of the crime at the stated time. Shortly after his sentencing, he fled to Australia.

"This situation should not have arisen, in particular, since al-Araibi now lives and works and plays as a professional footballer in Australia, where he has been accorded refugee status," noted FIFA.

FIFA therefore called on all the relevant authorities (in Bahrain, Thailand and Australia) to take the necessary steps to ensure that Hakeem Al-Araibi is allowed to return safely to Australia where he can resume his career as a professional footballer.

In a related notion, both the UN refugee agency and the UN human rights office have stated that sending al-Araibi to Bahrain would constitute a serious human rights violation.

Last month, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne called for Hakeem to be immediately returned to Australia.

Al-Araibi, who used to play for the Bahrain national team, was granted refugee status in Australia in 2017 and now plays for the second division Pascoe Vale Football Club.

The player is one of the strictest critics of the AFC president, Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, Bahraini king's cousin, who is also FIFA's senior vice president.

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team

 

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