A former Bahrain national footballer with Australian refugee status must remain in detention, a Thai court ordered Tuesday, as campaigners feared he could be “tortured” if extradited to the Gulf state.
Hakeem Alaraibi says he was arrested and beaten at the start of the Arab Spring protests in Bahrain in 2012, and was granted refugee status in Australia five years later.
The 25-year-old, who now plays for semi-professional club Pascoe Vale FC in Melbourne, was stopped by Thai immigration on November 27 after arriving in Bangkok for a vacation with his wife and held on an extradition request.
He has since been held in detention as Australia and Bahrain tussle over his fate.
His lawyer Nadthasiri Bergman told AFP Tuesday the court has extended his detention in Bangkok for 60 days.
The Attorney-General’s office would then file an application for his extradition, she said.
“I think he has a good chance not to be extradited because we have evidence” that he will face abuses back in Bahrain, Bergman said, adding that she is currently requesting bail for Alaraibi.
Speaking to reporters as he was led into court by immigration police, Alaraibi begged for the proceedings to be halted.
“Immigration Thailand and Immigration Bahrain work together to send me back to Bahrain. But Australia stopped them. Please stop them,” Alaraibi said.
“I don’t want to go back to Bahrain – I want to go back to Australia. I didn’t do anything in Bahrain. I’m a refugee in Australia.”
Officials from the Australian embassy were present at the court as well for the hearing.
The office of Thailand’s attorney-general on Friday submitted a request to the criminal court for an arrest warrant – a step forward in a process that could see Alaraibi extradited to Bahrain to face trial.
He was convicted in absentia on charges of vandalising a police station in the Gulf state, but says he was out of the country playing in a match at the time of the alleged offence.
Asia-Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) slammed Thai authorities for moving forward on their “callous plans” to extradite Alaraibi.
“This is someone who fled his home country after being tortured, and there is every risk he will face the same treatment again if he is forced back,” said APRRN’s Evan Jones.
Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne on Sunday called for his “immediate return”.