Courts Will Decide Footballer Hakeem’s Fate: ‘Big Joke’

A file photo of Hakeem AlAraibi.
A file photo of Hakeem AlAraibi.

BANGKOK — Thailand is open to considering appeals by FIFA and Australia for the release of a Bahraini footballer detained two months despite holding refugee status, the immigration chief said Thursday.

Lt. Gen. Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn said Thailand has been following international laws regarding the case of Bahraini national Hakeem AlAraibi, who has been jailed since Nov. 27. He said the footballer had to be taken into custody because of arrest warrants from both interpol and the Bahraini government, but said he has the right to due process in the Thai courts based on his refugee status.

Surachate said it’s up to the courts to decide whether AlAraibi should be returned to Bahrain or Australia, where he has been living. He added that the case differs from that of runaway Saudi Rahaf Alqunun, who received asylum and relocated to Canada within days after being stopped at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, as she didn’t have any outstanding warrants against her.

Read: Australian PM Asks Thailand to Free Detained Footballer

Surachate then said calls from the Australian government, FIFA and the International Olympic Committee for Thailand to return AlAraibi to Australia would be taken into the court’s consideration.

“Thailand is doing everything according to the human rights principles and the rule of law,” he said, adding that Thailand has been discussed the case closely with both Australian and Bahraini diplomats.

But a government lawyer said any decision could be upended at the discretion of the ruling junta.

Attorney Chatchom Akapin of the International Affairs Department said junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha has the power to overrule the court final ruling. AlAraibi’s wife recently filed a direct appeal to Prayuth to send her husband to Australia.

Bahrain filed an extradition request of AlAraibi on Tuesday, alarming international refugee and human rights activists who said the footballer faces death if extradited.

Related stories:

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Australian PM Asks Thailand to Free Detained Footballer

Bahrain Files Extradition Request For Refugee Footballer