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'Don't send me to Bahrain': Refugee footballer pleads in Bangkok

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05th-Feb-2019       
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A refugee footballer fighting an extradition request pleaded for his freedom Monday, saying "please don't send me to Bahrain" as he arrived in shackles at a Bangkok court, which extended his detention by another two months.
Hakeem al-Araibi, a Bahraini refugee and Australian resident, fears torture and even death if he is returned to his homeland.
Araibi was convicted in absentia on charges of vandalising a police station in Bahrain, but says he was out of the country playing in a match at the time of the alleged offence.
The player has said he believes he is being targeted over his criticism of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, a member of Bahrain's ruling family.
Araibi was stopped at Bahrain's request at a Bangkok airport in November when he arrived in Thailand for his honeymoon. He has been held in detention since then as Thai courts decide whether to send him back to the Gulf state.
"Please don't send me to Bahrain," he pleaded as he arrived at the court where former Australian football captain Craig Foster and other campaigners were on hand to lend support to the embattled player.
"Your wife sends her love! Hakeem, Australia is with you, mate," Foster shouted.
The court said Araibi would be given 60 days to object to the extradition request and would need to present his case in April when the judges reconvene.
Along with the objection papers, the footballer's lawyer Nadthasiri Bergman said they needed to submit evidence "to show the court that Hakeem's extradition to Bahrain will pose danger to his life."
Outside the court, Foster, who has been leading a protest in the football community for Araibi's freedom, said the case was politically motivated and represented "retribution from Bahrain to Hakeem".
Australian premier Scott Morrison has called on his Thai counterpart to release the 25-year-old, saying that returning him to Bahrain would infringe on his rights under international human rights law.

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