Feet shackled, Bahraini footballer arrives at Thai court to fight extradition

Please fight for me: Bahrain soccer player detained in Thailand pleads for help

Bahraini refugee Hakeem Al-Araibi could be extradited by Thailand amid protests

A football player who has refugee status in Australia told a Thai court Monday that he refuses to be voluntarily extradited to Bahrain, which has asked for his return to serve a prison sentence for a crime he denies committing.

He told the court he rejected the extradition request, saying he was detained and tortured for opposing the government, before he fled to Australia more than four years ago.

"Thailand has really been used by Bahrain in this situation", said former Australian soccer captain Craig Foster, who has been campaigning around the world for al-Araibi's release, and was at the court.

Australian embassy staff were in the court room waiting for proceedings to begin, along with diplomatic staff from a long list of countries, global football body FIFA, human rights groups and a large throng of media.

He was arrested at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport after Interpol falsely issued a "red notice" - an worldwide arrest warrant - which is not supposed to be given to refugees.

Chatchom said he had received a letter from Australian prosecutors indicating that Al-Araibi has refugee status in Australia but, he said, he must "consider all the facts in the case" and that Al-Araibi can also present such evidence to the court.

The 25-year-old is facing extradition proceedings by Bahrain, where he faces a 10-year prison term for allegedly vandalising a police station, if he is returned.

Al-Araibi has been openly critical of his birthplace Bahrain, which has requested his extradition.

Araibi was stopped at a Bangkok airport in November when he arrived in Thailand for a holiday and has been held in detention since then as Thai courts decide whether to send him back to the Gulf State.

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"Say hello to my wife, tell her I love her and I'm strong", Mr AlAraibi said as he was led away after the hearing.

The Bangkok court extended his detention by 60 days, during which he can file an objection against the extradition request. "He is an innocent young man being held illegally - in shackles - in a foreign country", said PFA Chief Executive John Didulica.

Chatchom Akapin, director general of the Thai attorney general's worldwide affairs department, has said the extradition request is for a criminal act.

As per the extradition process, Hakeem today denied Bahrain's extradition request. Extraditions for political prosecutions are against Thai law, according to Bangkok Post.

Bahrain, which has an extensively documented history of prisoner mistreatment, including an inquiry commissioned by the king which found a number of deaths in custody as a result, denies al-Araibi faces danger.

Recognised as a refugee by the Australian Government, Mr AlAraibi has been playing semi-professional football in Victoria.

"In reality, he has been duly convicted and sentenced by Bahrain's independent judiciary on charges involving serious violence and criminality, unrelated to any possible freedom of opinion/expression issues".

Sheikh Salman is a member of the royal family and at the time was head of Bahrain's football association.

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