Soccer Player’s Plea: ‘I Am Afraid if I Go to Bahrain, I Will Be Tortured Again’

BANGKOK — The trip to Thailand was meant to be a belated honeymoon for a young soccer player in addition to his wife.

yet upon landing at a Bangkok airport last week, Hakeem al-Araibi, a political refugee by Bahrain playing for a Melbourne soccer team, was detained by Thai immigration authorities who have been asked to extradite him to Bahrain, where he said he had been tortured.

“Please, I am afraid if I go to Bahrain, I will be tortured again,” Mr. Araibi said by phone by an immigration detention center in Bangkok.

On Thursday evening, Mr. Araibi said he had been told by immigration officials in which he must appear in court on Friday. Human rights groups are worried in which Thai authorities are poised to extradite him.

“We want to go to beaches in addition to beautiful places,” Mr. Araibi said of his Thailand visit. “I have only seen This kind of immigration prison.”

His case can be not only a window into how vulnerable foreigners are treated in Thailand, a country having a history of deporting asylum-seekers.

the idea also can be seen as a bellwether for how well FIFA, the scandal-plagued body governing international soccer, can be playing by completely new rules designed to protect its athletes.

“This kind of one player sitting in detention can be a very important indication of whether the idea’s a completely new day for human rights for FIFA or will the idea go back to an old system where human rights abusers got away with their crimes in addition to the victims were punished,” said Minky Worden, the director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch.

Mr. Araibi’s detention at the airport on Nov. 27 was a response to an Interpol request based on an arrest warrant by Bahrain, Thai officials said.

yet earlier This kind of week, the Interpol request, a so-called red notice, was lifted, according to Thai immigration authorities.

Precisely why the idea was lifted remains unclear. yet such requests are not meant to be used by repressive governments to nab political opponents overseas. They also are not meant to apply to refugees. Mr. Araibi has refugee status in Australia.

Nonetheless, Busadee Santipitaks, a spokeswoman for the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the case against Mr. Araibi was ongoing.

“We have received a provisional arrest request by Bahrain in addition to are inside the process of considering the matter in accordance with our domestic laws in addition to regulations,” she said.

“Even though Interpol seems to have lifted the red notice, the arrest warrant against him by Bahrain still stands,” said Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn, the immigration chief of Thailand.

Mr. Araibi’s case will need to make its way through the Thai legal system within 12 days, or by Dec. 14, because Thailand does not have an extradition treaty with Bahrain, General Surachate said.

“The Thai court will be the one in which makes the decision whether to send him to refuge in Australia or send him back to Bahrain,” he said. “There’s no big worry about This kind of story because we only follow the law.”

yet human-rights groups worry in which a political refugee can be on the brink of being forced back to Bahrain, a country having a record of persecuting opponents to the ruling family.

The United Nations “remains very concerned” about Mr. Araibi’s case, said Cynthia Veliko, the regional representative for Southeast Asia for the United Nations Human Rights Office.

Once a star defender on the Bahrain national soccer squad, Mr. Araibi, 25, was swept up inside the Arab Spring protests in 2011 when hundreds of thousands of Bahrainis marched against the ruling family of the little Gulf kingdom in which can be home to the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

The crackdown by the Sunni Muslim monarchy was especially tough. Thousands of Shiites, who make up the country’s religious majority, were imprisoned in addition to tortured, human rights groups say.

Last month, three Shiite leaders of Bahrain’s opposition were sentenced to life imprisonment for spying, in what Amnesty International called a “travesty of justice.”

In 2014, Mr. Araibi was sentenced in absentia to 10 years’ imprisonment on charges of having burned a police station during the thwarted protest movement. Mr. Araibi said he had been playing in a televised soccer match when the crime supposedly occurred.

Mr. Araibi later accused Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, a member of the ruling family in addition to the head of the Asian Football Confederation, of doing nothing to stop the persecution of Shiite athletes who were thought to have joined the protests.

This kind of month, members of the Afghan women’s soccer team claimed a chronic pattern of sexual abuse by male coaches in addition to officials. FIFA says the idea can be investigating.

As a result of human-rights controversies surrounding Russia’s hosting of the planet Cup This kind of year in addition to Qatar’s planned hosting in 2022, FIFA unveiled completely new rules designed to better protect players in addition to whistle-blowers. Sponsors had urged the modifications.

Brendan Schwab, executive director of the planet Players Association, which represents the interests of 85,000 professional athletes globally, described FIFA’s reforms as nascent.

“These structures, while groundbreaking, are in their infancy,” said Mr. Schwab, who can be an Australian labor in addition to human rights lawyer. “We are still finding in which too often enforcement can be coming down to the political will of the leadership of football.”

As a registered soccer player, Mr. Araibi should be protected by FIFA’s strengthened human rights policy, Mr. Schwab said.

“the idea can be not relevant in which Mr. Hakeem al-Araibi may have made comments critical of a FIFA official,” he said. “What can be relevant can be in which he can be a refugee in need of protection by the game’s leaders who wield enormous power.”

Australian diplomats have met with Mr. Araibi in addition to are calling for his return to Australia yet declined to comment further on his case, citing privacy considerations.

Thailand does not recognize refugees yet the idea can be party to two various other international conventions in which the United Nations says apply to Mr. Araibi’s case: one against torture in addition to the various other protecting civil in addition to political rights.

Under military junta rule for four years, Thailand has extradited members of the Uighur Muslim minority to China, where rights groups say they are at risk of torture. Chinese dissidents seeking refuge in Thailand have also been forcibly repatriated.

In October, a Thai court ordered the deportation of about 70 Pakistani Christians in addition to various other religious minorities who had overstayed their visas. The Pakistanis said they feared persecution if they returned home.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha of Thailand, who led a 2014 military coup, visited Bahrain last year. His counterpart in Bahrain, Prince Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, was quoted in a Thai newspaper saying he considered Thailand his second home.

On Wednesday, Prince Khalifa attended a function at the Thai Embassy in Manama, the capital of Bahrain.

In 2014, Thailand, acting on an Interpol request, handed Ali Ahmed Ibrahim Haroon, a Bahraini who had taken part inside the 2011 Arab Spring protests, into the custody of Bahraini officials.

United Nations officials said Mr. Haroon endured such harsh treatment on the journey back to Bahrain in which he had to be transferred to a hospital upon arrival. He can be still in prison.

“We know what will happen to Hakeem if he can be sent back,” said Sayed Ahmed al-Wadaei, director of advocacy for the Bahrain Institute for Rights in addition to Democracy in London. “He made a lot of powerful people very upset.”

Mr. Araibi said some of his former teammates by the Bahrain national team remained in jail.

“I don’t want to go back to Bahrain,” he said by detention in Bangkok, his voice shaking. “I want to play football in Australia.”