No extradition request for Melbourne-based refugee Hakeem AlAraibi, Thai court says
Mr AlAraibi did not want to hide his handcuffs but wanted to show he was being detained. (AP: Gemunu Amarasinghe)
A lawyer for a Melbourne-based refugee detained in Thailand says his home country of Bahrain is yet to lodge a formal extradition request with Bangkok.
- Mr AlAraibi is accused of vandalising a police station in Bahrain
- He denies the accusation, saying he was playing in a televised soccer match at the time of the incident
- His lawyers say the case is “political”
Hakeem AlAraibi was detained when he stepped off the plane in Bangkok for a holiday with his wife, on the request of Bahrain, which has convicted him in absentee of vandalising a police station.
Mr AlAraibi denies the accusation, saying he was playing in a televised soccer match at the time of the incident and that he is being persecuted for criticising a relative of the Bahrain royal family.
A Thai court yesterday ordered Mr AlAraibi to be detained in a remand prison for up to 60 days while Bahrain makes its case for his extradition.
“[The court] says the [Thai] Government is still waiting for the official extradition request, so during that process they cannot grant bail,” said Nadthasiri Berkman, one of the lawyers working on his case.
This contradicts a statement released by the Thai Government on Saturday.
“The detention was carried out in response to the red notice alert received from the Interpol National Central Bureau of Australia and the formal request from the Bahraini Government for his arrest and extradition,” said the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a statement that repeatedly misspelled Mr AlAraibi’s name as “Oraibi”.
Mr AlAraibi was outwardly calm as he heard his bail had been rejected, thanking his legal team and asking about his wife, who arrived with him on November 27 for the holiday in Thailand.
“He is very sad, he is terrified, he doesn’t want to be extradited,” said Ms Berkman.
Campaigners outside the Thai Consulate in Victoria called on Thai authorities to free the refugee. (Supplied: Yahya Alhadid)
The former Bahrain national squad member said he fled to Australia because he was tortured in Bahrain and fears being tortured again or possibly killed if he is sent back.
He settled in Melbourne in 2014, received refugee status last year and plays for Pascoe Vale Football Club.
His lawyer was at a loss to explain how the Interpol red notice might have come from Australia, when significant diplomatic resources are being mobilised to advocate for his safe return.
“I don’t understand that either … it’s contradicting information,” said Ms Berkman.
Interpol has a policy of not issuing red notices — effectively international arrest warrants — in the case of refugees, and withdrew the notice for Mr AlAraibi on December 3.
Thailand could have deported Mr AlAraibi on December 3 when the Interpol red notice was withdrawn, or dismissed a request to issue an arrest warrant, but has chosen to continue with the extradition process.
Campaigners affiliated with Amnesty International Australia have been demonstrating outside the Thai Consulate in Melbourne. (ABC News: Gemma Hall)
‘Please stop them’
As Mr AlAraibi arrived at court on Tuesday, police tried to cover his handcuffs with a blue cloth, but he waved them off, keen to show the world he was being detained.
‘Please stop them,” he told waiting media.
“I don’t want to go to Bahrain. I want to go to Australia. I didn’t do anything in Bahrain. I’m a refugee in Australia.”
What might have been a procedural matter turned into a long day in court for Mr AlAraibi and his legal team, as they tried to have him released.
The lawyers first asked for the transfer to prison to be overturned and when that failed, they asked for bail.
But the result was almost a foregone conclusion — lawyers do not recall a single instance of bail being granted in an extradition case in the last 10 years.
Mr AlAraibi fled his homeland four years ago on account of alleged political persecution. (AP: Gemunu Amarasinghe)
“They rejected bail,” shouted Ms Berkmam to her client, through the four-metre gap between the holding cells and the visitor’s cubicles.
“So two months?” asked Mr AlAlraibi, straining against the bars and mesh to see and hear.
“Yes, 60 days in Bangkok remand [prison],” shouted the lawyer.
Another lawyer working on the case — Somchai Homlaor — said the way Mr AlAraibi was detained suggested the Thai Government had acted because of diplomatic pressure, rather than international law.
“This is a political case,” said Mr Somchai.
Representatives from the Australian embassy were at court on Tuesday, and Ms Berkman praised their involvement as “very genuine” and well beyond the advocacy she has seen in other cases.
“I think they have been making it very clear that … they want him back to Australia,” she said.
Thailand is not a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees, and has been criticised for sending refugees and asylum seekers back to countries were they face persecution.
However, the kingdom has signed the UN Convention on Torture and has made commitments to improve its human rights record.
This case will test those promises in a very public way.