Thai Court Holds Bahraini Soccer Star Who Escaped Persecution

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A political refugee who spoke out towards a strong ruling household within the Gulf moved one step nearer on Tuesday to being extradited to his native Bahrain by the Thai authorities.

A Thai court docket formally prolonged the detention of Hakeem al-Araibi, as soon as a star defender for the Bahraini nationwide soccer staff, for 60 days, throughout which Thailand’s immigration division can put together his extradition. Mr. Araibi was stopped final month on the Bangkok airport after a flight from Australia, the place he had been dwelling as a authorized refugee after fleeing a crackdown on Arab Spring protesters within the small Gulf nation.

Mr. Araibi was initially detained due to an Interpol crimson discover, an alert from the worldwide police company meant to tell nations about people with lively arrest warrants, the Thai authorities stated. Whereas crimson notices will not be legally binding, they can be utilized to detain fugitives to allow them to be extradited to the nation the place they had been convicted of a criminal offense.

However crimson notices have additionally been abused by authoritarian governments that need to convey residence critics who’ve fled overseas, human rights teams say. That’s the reason Interpol over the previous a number of years has instituted reforms that require the company to vet every one that is added to the crimson discover database. Refugees like Mr. Araibi are additionally alleged to be exempt from crimson notices.

But, critics say, Interpol has not been rigorous sufficient in guaranteeing that the crimson discover database will not be getting used to settle political vendettas.

Almost every week after he was detained in Bangkok, Interpol rescinded the crimson discover for Mr. Araibi, Thai officers stated.

By that point, nonetheless, Mr. Araibi was already behind bars in a rustic with a file of sending asylum-seekers again to international locations the place there may be credible proof that they are going to face torture or political persecution, together with China, Pakistan and Bahrain.

Thai officers stated they had been retaining him in detention as a result of that they had obtained an extradition request from the Bahraini authorities, based mostly on a 10-year jail sentence for prices together with vandalism that human rights teams say was politically motivated.

“This can be a man with a public profile who’d fled a rustic the place he made credible allegations about being tortured to the purpose that he was granted asylum in Australia,” stated Bruno Min, a senior coverage advisor for Truthful Trials, a world felony justice watchdog. “Why was the crimson discover on him allowed to be revealed within the first place? What this reveals is that the system put in place remains to be not ok to cease abuses from occurring.”

Bahrain has a historical past of utilizing crimson notices to drive dissidents to return residence. In 2014, Thailand, performing on an Interpol alert, turned over one other critic of the Bahraini ruling household to officers from there. The United Nations stated proof means that dissident was crushed severely throughout his journey again to Bahrain, and he stays in jail.

In 2014, Mr. Araibi was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in jail for having vandalized a police station. But minutes earlier than that crime supposedly occurred, he was taking part in in a televised soccer match. The decide who convicted him is a member of Bahrain’s ruling Khalifa household.

After fleeing overseas, Mr. Araibi spoke out towards a senior Bahraini soccer official, whom he accused of permitting the torture and imprisonment of members of the nationwide staff believed to have supported the Arab Spring protests in Bahrain. Some are nonetheless in jail.

That official, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, additionally a member of Bahrain’s ruling household, is the pinnacle of the Asian Soccer Confederation and a vp of FIFA, the worldwide physique governing soccer.

In 2016, Sheikh Salman ran, unsuccessfully, to guide FIFA, and issues over how his household was ruling Bahrain helped to scuttle his candidacy. Mr. Araibi spoke out about how he believed Sheikh Salman had did not cease his torture.

Final week, in a uncommon political intercession, FIFA, which was been suffering from corruption scandals, known as for Mr. Araibi’s return to Australia.

Australia’s overseas minister, Marise Payne, has additionally urged Thailand to permit Mr. Araibi to fly again to Australia.

The protests towards the Sunni Muslim ruling household of Bahrain had been broad-based, with some 200,000 folks, many members of the nation’s Shiite majority taking part, human rights teams stated. Mr. Araibi’s brother participated within the protests and Mr. Araibi stated in a telephone name from detention in Bangkok that his brother’s exercise triggered his eventual torture.

The sequence of occasions previous Mr. Araibi’s detention at a Bangkok airport on Nov. 27 has led activists to query whether or not Thailand might have knowledgeable the Bahraini authorities about Mr. Araibi’s upcoming journey.

In October, Mr. Araibi and his spouse utilized for visas to vacation in Thailand. In early November, that visa was granted. The Interpol crimson discover, which stemmed from a request from Bahrain, was solely vetted and revealed after Mr. Araibi obtained visa approval from the Thai immigration authorities.

“Within the wake of Jamal Khashoggi’s homicide, the repressive Gulf states appear assured that their world hunt of expat dissidents can proceed with out worry of penalties,” stated Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy for the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy in London, referring to the killing of the outstanding Saudi journalist within the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Over the weekend, the Thai Overseas Ministry stated that Thailand carried out the detention after requests from each Bahraini- and Australian-based authorities.

“The detention was carried out in response to the crimson discover alert obtained from the Interpol Nationwide Central Bureau of Australia and the formal request from the Bahraini authorities for his arrest and extradition,” the assertion learn.

The Australian Division of Overseas Affairs and Commerce, together with the Australian Federal Police, didn’t reply to requests for remark. However it could be uncommon for officers in a rustic that had given Mr. Araibi refugee standing to have additionally reported him to the Thais.

Australia has extradited people with crimson notices on them to international locations the place rights teams say they might be subjected to torture, akin to Egypt. And it’s potential for various bureaucracies inside one nation to work at cross functions, rights watchdogs stated.

“Very often, with crimson notices, we have now seen that there’s not plenty of dialogue between two totally different our bodies, like regulation enforcement and immigration,” stated Mr. Min of Truthful Trials, who has extensively researched abuses of Interpol crimson alerts.

On Tuesday, Mr. Araibi’s request for bail was denied, stated his lawyer, Nadthasiri Bergman. He will likely be transferred from immigration detention to Bangkok’s notoriously overcrowded remand jail whereas his case works its means by the courts. The method might take weeks.

Mr. Araibi and his spouse had needed to spend a belated honeymoon in Thailand, Mr. Araibi stated. From detention, he described his bewilderment at how a deliberate vacation had remodeled into the probability that he can be compelled to return to a rustic the place human rights teams say 1000’s of individuals have been tortured for his or her involvement within the crushed Arab Spring motion.

“My spouse and I, we would like a trip,” Mr. Araibi stated. “I don’t need to return to a torture place.”

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