BANGKOK – Thailand denied on Thursday that it alerted Bahrain of the travel plans of a refugee soccer player who has been under detention while Bangkok processes an extradition request from the Gulf nation.
Hakeem al-Araibi, who has been granted asylum in Australia, was detained on Nov. 27 upon arrival in Bangkok from Melbourne with his wife for their honeymoon after the erroneous issuance of an Interpol red notice against him and an arrest and extradition request by Bahrain.
That request by Manama was made on Nov. 8, the same day that the Thai consulate in Melbourne approved the footballer’s tourist visa.
At a press conference in the Thai capital on Thursday, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thani Thongphakdi, denied that Bangkok had alerted authorities in Manama of Al-Araibi’s plans, who was traveling outside of Australia for the first time since his arrival in 2014 after fleeing Bahrain, where he is accused of vandalism during the Arab Spring uprising in 2012.
“As a matter of policy or routine, our consulate generals and embassies do not inform other countries,” Thani said.
“So if you’re implying or think that the Thai consulate in Melbourne alerted, well, they would have to alert Bangkok first and we would alert Bahrain – I can tell you categorically that that did not happen,” he added.
Thani insisted that Thai authorities were unaware of Al-Araibi’s case until they received an email from Interpol Australia alerting them of the arrest warrant against the footballer, adding that that email was also sent to authorities in Manama.
“The person who did alert Bahrain was the Australian Interpol on the morning of the 27th,” he said.
The Bahraini, who was granted refugee status by Australia in 2017, traveled to Thailand on a refugee travel document.
According to Thani, the Australian embassy confirmed the authenticity of the documentation upon the player’s arrival and confirmed his permanent residency in Australia the following day.
Thani said that the case was now in the hands of the Thai courts and that the government could not intervene until there a decision by the courts has been made, a process which could take months.
He said that the Thai government could revoke the court order and insisted that the case could be resolved earlier if Bahrain and Australia reach an agreement for the withdrawal of the extradition request.
Al-Araibi appeared before a court in Bangkok on Monday to formally lodge his refusal to be extradited back to Bahrain, where he says he was tortured and that his life would be in danger if he returned.
The judges gave 60 days to the player’s lawyers to prepare his defense, setting the next hearing for April 22.
Al-Araibi was arrested in 2012 for his participation in the Arab Spring uprising and, two years later, was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison for allegedly vandalising a police station.
The soccer player has denied the accusation, which he says occurred while he was playing a match with the country’s soccer team.
Several soccer personalities have expressed their support for the campaign to release Al-Araibi, including former Australia soccer captain Craig Foster.