The plight of refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi, jailed in Thailand, has claimed headlines across Australia.
The 25-year-old is wanted by Bahrain for the firebombing of a police station in 2012. On 27 November he was detained in Thailand at Bangkok airport, arriving from Melbourne for his honeymoon.
But in a new twist, Thailand has blamed the arrest of al-Araibi on Australian authorities. They say he was detained at the request of a Red Notice from Australia’s Interpol — an international arrest warrant — and otherwise were not previously aware of al–Araibi’s case.
As AAP reports, Thailand’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement this week:
‘We would not have become involved in the issue had we not received the Red Notice alert from the Australian Interpol and the subsequent formal request by Bahrain for his arrest and extradition.’
This is Thailand’s attempt at palming off responsibility for their role in this international embarrassment for the military junta, according to the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH).
Hakeem al-Araibi fled Bahrain in 2014 after being given a 10-year jail sentence, and a Red Notice was issued. He was granted refugee status by Australia and now lives in Melbourne.
When Australia was informed of al-Araibi’s honey moon travel plans, the Red Notice was immediately withdrawn because ‘recognised refugees are not supposed to be subject to Red Notices requested by the country from which they have fled’, so says SMH.
The department confirmed the Interpol National Central Bureau in Australia insists that ‘the Interpol Red Notice was not put in place by Australia; the existence of the Interpol Red Notice would have come to the attention of Thai authorities when the person attempted to enter Thailand. Any action taken in response to the Interpol Red Notice is a matter for Thai authorities.’
But according to Thailand’s Foreign Affairs Ministry,
‘It took several days after the arrival of Mr Hakeem, before the Australian authorities informed us that the Red Notice had been cancelled. By that time, legal proceedings in Thailand regarding Mr Hakeem had already started and could not be reversed.’
Al-Araibi has been held in custody in the Bangkok Remand Centre ever since. The formal hearings for his extradition trial are reported to begin on 22 April, according to AAP.
The Foreign Ministry’s statement seems to contradict Thai Immigration chief Police Lieutenant General Surachet Hakparn’s claim that Bahrain knew of al-Araibi’s travel plans prior to his arrival.
‘The Bahraini government knew that he would be arriving in Thailand so they coordinated with Thailand’s permanent secretary of foreign affairs to detain him, pending documents sent from Bahrain,’ Surachet told BBC Thai.
Al-Araibi believes he faces torture and possible death in Bahrain.
The extradition can be stopped
Australia has asked Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to personally intervene with al-Araibi’s case and conduct his release.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned earlier that this week that failure to do so could damage the relationship between Australia and Thailand.
‘I would be very disappointed if as a result of how this was handled that that relationship between the Thai and Australian people were affected,’ he told reporters in Melbourne on Wednesday.
The Thai government are hell-bent on believing they have no power to intervene with a proceeding legal case due to the 2008 Extradition Act. But Foreign Minister Marise Payne has noted otherwise, and has also encouraged Bahrain’s government not to go forth with the extradition.
If not revoked, the court will take up to three months to complete al-Araibi’s extradition case.
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