Hakeem AlAraibi Released from Thailand after 76 Days of Detention

11 February 2019 – Today, Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the Government of Bahrain had dropped its calls for Hakeem AlAraibi’s extradition to Bahrain, paving the way for his release. He is now safely in Australia. Hakeem had been detained for 76 days and faced extradition from Thailand to Bahrain, where he would have been at risk of torture and abuse as well as a 10-year prison sentence. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) welcomes Hakeem AlAraibi’s release but remains deeply concerned over his initial detention and Bahrain’s efforts to extradite him.

On 27 November 2018, Hakeem traveled to Thailand with his wife. Upon his arrival in Bangkok, Thai authorities detained him on the basis of an erroneously applied INTERPOL Red Notice. The Red Notice was requested by the Bahraini government and applied by INTERPOL although it violated the formal policy of the INTERPOL Executive Committee, which states that Red Notices will not be issued if the recipient is a confirmed refugee or asylum-seeker. Although INTERPOL cancelled the Red Notice, Thai authorities did not release Hakeem. Instead, on 11 December 2018, the Bangkok Criminal Court remanded Hakeem for 60 days. On 28 January 2019, Bahrain formally requested AlAraibi’s extradition. The same day the authorities submitted this request, Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior published a statement seemingly in response to the international community’s attention to the case, stating that “external interference in the internal affairs of Bahrain is unacceptable,” and that questioning the Bahraini judicial system is “intolerable.”

On 4 February 2019, Hakeem was brought, handcuffed and shackled, to the Criminal Court for a hearing on his extradition.” The Court informed Hakeem that his attorneys have until 5 April to submit a written objection to his extradition. However, on 11 February 2019, it was announced that the Bahraini government would not pursue Hakeem’s extradition, and that he would be released and returned to Australia the following day. Bahrain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement confirming the halt of extradition proceedings, but noting that Bahrain “reaffirms its right to pursue all necessary legal actions” against Hakeem.

Husain Abdulla, ADHRB Executive Director: “We welcome the news of Hakeem’s release from detention in Thailand and his return to Australia. This is a victory for Hakeem and his family and we thank all those who worked and advocated on his behalf. However, we remain deeply concerned over the Bahraini government’s efforts to extradite Hakeem and Thailand’s willingness to detain Hakeem pending his potential return to Bahrain. We urge the international community to remain vigilant and to pressure Bahrain to bring its laws into line with international human rights standards.”

While ADHRB welcomes Hakeem AlAraibi’s release, we emphasize that such proceedings should never have taken place, and the Thai authorities’ detention of Hakeem was contrary to human rights. As a refugee, Hakeem should have been permitted to freely travel, and should have been protected from an INTERPOL Red Notice or refoulement by other methods. Once the Thai authorities were aware of Hakeem’s status and unfair conviction, they should have immediately released Hakeem and allowed for his safe return to Australia. Instead, the Thai authorities knowingly held a refugee and victim of torture for possible unlawful extradition for 76 days. We urge Bahrain to vacate Hakeem’s sentence, in light of the overwhelming exculpatory evidence and his unfair trial in absentia.