Australia urges Thailand to use its powers to free Hakeem al-Araibi

06-Feb-2019 Intellasia | The Guardian | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Request comes as Thai prosecutor confirms country’s attorney general has authority to override court process

The Australian government has renewed demands for the release of Hakeem al-Araibi after the Thai prosecutor publicly confirmed the government has the power to set him free, regardless of the extradition process.

On Monday the 25-year-old footballer from Melbourne, a Bahraini refugee, was remanded in prison for another two months after the Ratchadaphisek criminal court gave him 60 days to prepare a defence to Bahrain’s extradition request.

Speaking after the hearing, the Thai prosecutor confirmed the country’s attorney general has powers of executive discretion and could return Al-Araibi to Australia at any point.

Australia’s foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, said in a statement the Australian government remained “deeply concerned by his ongoing detention” and continued to advocate “at the highest levels” in Thailand and Bahrain.

“The Australian government reiterates its calls for the Thai government to release Hakeem al-Araibi home to Australia to be with his friends and family following his extradition hearing,” Payne said.

“Both governments are aware of the importance of this matter to the Australian government and Australian people.”

At Monday’s court hearing Al-Araibi was brought to the court barefoot, in prison clothes, with his legs shackled. As he walked past media and supporters he shouted, “Don’t send me to Bahrain”.

He fears he will be imprisoned and tortured as he alleges occurred in 2012 if he is returned. The Bahrain government bases its extradition request on an act of vandalism which occurred when, or very shortly after, he was playing in a televised football match, but Al-Araibi believes it is attempted political retribution.

“The Thai government should see that Bahrain’s sole motive is to further punish Hakeem for the peaceful political opinions he expressed,” said Amnesty International Thailand campaigner Katherine Gerson.

Supporters of Al-Araibi have stepped up calls for sanctions and boycotts primarily from world sporting bodies such as Fifa and the International Olympic Committee against Bahrain and Thailand.

“You cannot have the privileges of the international community if you are not prepared to live by its rules or behave by its standards,” said the head of Professional Footballers Australia, John Didulica.

Allan McKinnon, Australia’s ambassador designate, would not be drawn on whether Australia was considering sanctions against Thailand if it failed to act.

“What we are considering at the moment is anything we can do to more rapidly move Hakeem al-Araibi out of detention, have this case finished and allow him to go back to Australia,” McKinnon said outside the court.

He said Australia and the other 14 countries represented in court to support Al-Araibi would “continue to press”.

Pressure on Thailand is increasing, and its head of immigration, Surachate Hakparn, personally responded to criticism of Al-Araibi’s shackles and bare feet at court on Monday.

Hakparn replied to numerous tweets to say it was in line with international standards something disputed by human rights groups.

On Tuesday morning Hakparn tweeted a screenshot of McKinnon’s statement, posted by the Australian embassy in Thailand. He added the words: “We hope that Hakeem will be able to go back to be with his family and his wife in the coming days.”

The posted comment, on behalf of McKinnon, said the actions of Bahrain had put Thailand “in a very difficult position”.

“The government of Bahrain knew very well that Hakeem al-Araibi lived in Australia since 2014. During these four years, the Bahraini government did not attempt to ask Australia about Hakeem at all or to request to send him back to Bahrain.”

The role of Australian authorities in Al-Araibi’s arrest has become a key question, and supporters have said that while they are currently concentrating on getting him released, they would seek accountability when the ordeal was over.

He was arrested in November on an Interpol red notice, issued against Interpol’s refugee protection policies.

Australian federal police, working as locally based Interpol, notified Thailand of his arrival a process that is understood to be largely automatic when someone subject to a red notice is travelling and did not flag his refugee status.

Al-Araibi has said he asked Australian government officials if he was safe to travel and was told he would be.

Speaking to 2GB radio at the weekend, Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, suggested Al-Araibi bore some responsibility.

“If you have a permanent protection visa and you live in Australia, please don’t go to countries where you can put yourself at risk in these situations,” Morrison said.

Asked by the host, Alan Jones, about Australian officials “tipping off” Thai authorities, Morrison said: “What we’re focused on is getting him home.”

While Payne and diplomatic staff have lobbied on behalf of Al-Araibi since his arrest, Morrison personally intervened only last week, speaking to the Thai ambassador and writing to the Thai prime minister. He told 2GB he was yet to receive a reply.

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2019/feb/05/australia-urges-thailand-to-use-its-powers-to-free-hakeem-al-araibi?CMP=share_btn_tw

 


Category: Thailand

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