30 Members of the European Parliament Call on Thai Foreign Ministry to Release Hakeem AlAraibi and Allow for His Safe Return to Australia

31 January 2019 – On Monday, 28 January 2019, 30 members of the European Parliament (MEPs) sent a letter to Thailand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Don Pramudwinai. In this letter they expressed grave concern regarding the continued detention of Bahrain-born footballer Hakeem AlAraibi, who is facing extradition to Bahrain.

The letter to MFA Pramudwinai, which was a result of the advocacy efforts of Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), highlighted the work of the international community in calling for the release of Hakeem. The MEPs referenced Australian MFA Marise Payne’s meetings with Thai government officials, statements made by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and calls from international sporting organizations and high-profile sports figures. Additionally, the MEPs noted the work of ADHRB and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) in jointly submitting an Urgent Appeal concerning Hakeem’s case to the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, which raised concerns about the torture Hakeem would likely face if extradited to Bahrain.

The MEPs concluded by urging the Thai authorities to release Hakeem AlAraibi from detention and ensure his safe return to Australia, where he maintains refugee status.

MEP Julie Ward (S&D) commenting: “I hope this strong letter, which demonstrates cross-party support, compels the Thai authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Hakeem and allow him to safely return to Australia. Extraditing him to Bahrain would be dangerous and irresponsible as he would most likely face torture and human rights violations. I trust the Thai authorities are aware of the risks involved and will work with us to uphold human rights.”

“If Thailand extradites Hakeem to Bahrain, this will further demonstrate Thailand’s lack of respect for the rights of refugees and for international laws and standards that prohibit refoulement when the subject is at risk of torture and abuse. Hakeem’s case has also raised concerns surrounding the questionable relationship between the Thai royal family and the AlKhalifas and the economic interests that are likely at play,” says ADHRB Executive Director Husain Abdulla. “This letter is yet another strong call for Thailand to do the right thing, and I hope this time they listen. The Thai Government must release Hakeem and allow for his safe return to Australia.”

Last week, on 24 January 2019, MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, Chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI), also personally expressed alarm at the ongoing detention of refugee football player Hakeem AlAraibi in Thailand. MEP Panzeri emphasized the gravity and urgency of the situation and the importance that the Australian government and other organizations advocating for Hakeem AlAraibi’s release continue their efforts.

“The rightful place for Hakeem is certainly not behind bars in Thailand but outside, with his family, friends and supporters,” said MEP Panzeri. “Returning Hakeem Al-Araibi to Bahrain would… put his life in serious danger. Thai immigration authorities should ensure that he is allowed to return to Australia without any harm to his wellbeing.”

Click here to read a pdf of the letter.