Court to hear AlAraibi extradition case

Court to hear AlAraibi extradition case

Hakeem Ali Mohamed Ali al-Araibi, detained Nov 27 at Suvarnabhumi airport at the request of the Bahrain government, gets a day in court on Tuesday. (Photo provided)
Hakeem Ali Mohamed Ali al-Araibi, detained Nov 27 at Suvarnabhumi airport at the request of the Bahrain government, gets a day in court on Tuesday. (Photo provided)

The Criminal Court has scheduled an extradition hearing on Tuesday for a former member of the Bahrain national football team, now wanted political crimes.

The commissioner of the Police Immigration Bureau, Pol Lt Gen Surachate "Big Joke" Hakparn, said the Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Hakeem AlAraibi on Monday.

On Tuesday, immigration officers will escort the Bahraini citizen to court for a hearing.

The court could rule immediately on whether AlAraibi can be extradited to face Bahraini charges. The court could also adjourn the hearing to examine the testimony of Bahrain and AlAraibi, or it could order his deportation back to Australia, where he has official refugee status and plays semi-professional football.

The actual decision to extradite AlAraibi will be made by the government, taking the court's decision into consideration.

Pol Lt Gen Surachate said if the court decides AlAraibi is legally liable to extradition, the actual process is likely to take about 90 days. Depending how the Criminal Court court rules, there could also be a legal appeal by the losing party.

Extradition cases can be prolonged, and nations are obliged under international agreements to provide justice to both the parties involved.

In one of the longest extradition cases in Thai history, fugitive banker Rakesh Saxena delayed his extradition from Canada for 13 years by legal manoeuvring.

International arms deal Viktor Bout, arrested in Bangkok in 2008, fought his extradition to the United States in Thai courts for two years and eight months.

The exact charges AlAraibi faces in Bahrain are still vague. One involves lese majeste of the emir and another concerns alleged defamation of the country's top sports minister, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa. In addition to being a highly connected member of Bahrain's ruling family, he is a member of Fifa's board and also president of the Asian Football Confederation..

A Bahrain court sentenced him to 10 years for vandalism of a police station during the Arab Spring, but the crime took place while AlAraibi was playing in a televised football match.

AlAraibi was stopped by the immigration police on Nov 27 after arriving in Bangkok from Australia for a vacation with his wife following a request from Bahrain, who had convicted AlAraibi in absentia for vandalising a police station in Bahrain.

AlAraibi, 25, who now plays for semi-professional club Pascoe Vale FC in Melbourne, has said that he was arrested and beaten at the start of the Arab Spring protests in 2012, and was granted refugee status by Australia five years later.

He said that he was not in Bahrain at the time of the alleged offence.

The attorney-general's office on Friday submitted AlAraibi's extradition case to the Criminal Court on behalf of Bahrain, because there is an outstanding arrest warrant issued by the Gulf state for him.

Pol Lt Gen Surachate said that AlAraibi can ask his lawyer to petition the court, and insisted that his basic human rights will be protected under Thai laws.

Human rights activists and the National Human Rights Commission have called on the government not to extradite AlAraibi to Bahrain.

The Federation of International Football Association (Fifa) issued a call last week for AlAraibi's release and for "Thai authorities to allow [AlAraibi] to return to Australia ... at the earliest possible moment".

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