Bangkok (dpa) – Actually Hakeem Al-Araibi only wanted to go on holiday in Thailand. Come up with the honeymoon together with his wife. The classic program: Bangkok, then on one of the many islands and eventually some Buddhist temples.
Instead, the Bahrain football professional, who plays in a club in Australia, has been imprisoned in the capital of Thailand since the end of November. His homeland – an authoritarian kingdom with a little more than 1.5 million inhabitants in the Persian Gulf – demands that Al-Araibi (25) be extradited. The claim: the former national player in 2011 participated in the destruction of a police station in the capital Manama in Bahrain. In his absence, he was sentenced to ten years in prison.
At that time it was the time of the "Arab Spring", in the Gulf State, especially the majority of the Shiite population took to the streets against the Sunni leadership of the country. Al-Araibi is also Shiit. He rejects all allegations. In fact, just before the police station was attacked, he was in a football match on the field. The game was broadcast live on television.
Nevertheless, a few days later, he was arrested by security forces and tortured according to his own account. "They beat me up for three hours and threatened to break my bones, so I will never be able to play football again." He was released on bail, which he then used to escape – via Iran, Malaysia and Thailand to his new home.
In Australia he was recognized as a political refugee, which is not so easy. Now he earns his money again with football. The club Pascoe Vale from Melbourne, who plays in the Premier League of the state of Victoria, took him under contract. Everything seemed to go well – until the decision to go on holiday in Thailand. It was the first trip abroad since he fled in 2014. He was arrested at the airport.
Meanwhile the case has reached international politics. Bahrain insists on extradition. Australia demands that Al-Araibi be returned immediately. FIFA World Football Association and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are calling for his release. The military government of Thailand points out that the case must be decided by an independent court. At the same time, she offered negotiations in Bahrain and Australia.
From the point of view of Al-Araibi's defense, however, there are doubts about whether Thailand is suitable for it. The Thai authorities rely on a request from the Gulf State for the arrest. The police of Interpol has since canceled the "Red Notice", which led to the arrest. There is no extradition treaty between the two countries.
Since this week there have been further criticisms of the Thai authorities. Al-Araibi was forced to wear shackles on the way to a prison sentence in court. This was justified with flight danger. The photo's caused international outrage. The footballer himself used the opportunity to call the camera: "Stop them, please stop them, I do not want to go back to Bahrain." He would be afraid to be tortured to death.
The hashtag #SaveHakeem (Rettet Hakeem) has been distributed on Twitter more than 100,000 times. Also international football greats such as Didier Drogba, Jamie Vardy and Gary Linneker take part. The Thai judiciary made little impression. The court prolonged the pre-trial detention until April 22.