‘This might be my last message’: Thailand set to deport Australian refugee

Thailand is set to send Australian resident and refugee Melbourne footballer Hakeem AlAraibi back to Bahrain, where he faces imprisonment and possible torture, a human rights group claims.

The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) said on Friday morning AlAraibi would face a Thai court today and could be sent home within hours.

Hakeem AlAraibi (right) with AFC president Shiekh Salman, a member of the royal family who AlAraibi has been critical of in the past.Credit:Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy

"This might be my last message," the Pascoe Vale FC defender was quoted as saying. "I still don’t know whether I will be deported to Bahrain tomorrow. I appeal to the United Nations, individual states, FIFA, footballers, and all people, as my fate is now in danger and my future will soon be over. If I am deported to Bahrain, don’t forget me, and if once I’m there you hear me saying things, don’t believe me. I know what will happen to me and I know I will be tortured to confess things that I have never done. Please continue your fight to save me.”

AlAraibi has been in detention in Thailand since November 27, when he was arrested on landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Hakeem AlAraibi in immigration detention at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.Credit:Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy

The 25-year-old, who was granted asylum status in 2014, has had permanent residency in Australia since 2017 and was entering Thailand on holiday with his wife.

AlAraibi has been publicly outspoken against the torture he suffered in Bahraini detention during the Arab Spring uprising in 2012.

In 2014, he was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison for vandalising a police station. He says he was overseas playing a televised match when the alleged offence occurred.

He was the subject of an Interpol red notice, which human rights observers say was issued in breach of its own rules as AlAraibi has refugee status. Once the red notice was lifted, it had been thought AlAraibi would be free to return to Australia, but on December 3 a court ordered he be detained for a further 12 days while evidence was gathered.

The BIRD statement on Friday morning said the Thai chief of immigration has stated that, since Bahrain has issued an arrest warrant, it is now up to the Thai court to decide on the case because there is no bilateral extradition treaty.

The statement said AlAraibi was prevented from seeing his lawyer at Suan Phlu (Bangkok) Immigration Detention Centre, despite the lawyer making verbal and written requests.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, the director of advocacy at BIRD said: “If Hakeem is extradited to Bahrain the Thai government will breach international law and cross a red line which will prompt the international community to act. During Thailand’s National Day we all witnessed how Bahrain’s Prime Minister hailed the strong ties between the two countries.

"This is a toxic relationship that could destroy the life of a 25-year-old, whose only crime has been to tell the truth about his government’s ruthless torture.

"After the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the world should not underestimate how far the Gulf States will go to repress dissent."

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