Bahrain re­quested ar­rest of refugee 'be­fore he ar­rived in Thai­land'

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines - He­len David­son and agen­cies

Thai im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties have claimed Bahrain re­quested the ar­rest of a dis­si­dent be­fore he ar­rived in Bangkok for a hol­i­day, rais­ing con­cerns that the Aus­tralian res­i­dent was un­der sur­veil­lance.

Ha­keem Al-Araibi, 25, who fled Bahrain in 2014 and was granted asy­lum in Aus­tralia in 2017, has been held in Thai­land for 10 days since he ar­rived in the coun­try with his wife.

Af­ter his ar­rest in Thai­land, AlAraibi, a pro­fes­sional foot­baller, was shown an In­ter­pol “red no­tice” in­ter­na­tional ar­rest war­rant against him, and told that was the rea­son he was be­ing de­tained.

Sup­port­ers and hu­man rights groups have ques­tioned why In­ter­pol granted Bahrain a red no­tice against a refugee who fled the coun­try.

Ear­lier this week the red no­tice was lifted, but Al-Araibi re­mained in im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion un­der a Thai court or­der. Of­fi­cials main­tained they were work­ing through next steps with both Aus­tralia and Bahrain.

But in an in­ter­view with BBC Thai, the head of Thai­land’s im­mi­gra­tion bu­reau has sug­gested the ar­rests was not only on the ba­sis of a red no­tice.

“The Bahraini gov­ern­ment knew that he [Ha­keem Al-Araibi] would be ar­riv­ing in Thai­land [on 27 Novem­ber], so they co­or­di­nated with Thai­land’s per­ma­nent sec­re­tary of for­eign af­fairs to de­tain him, pend­ing doc­u­ments sent from Bahrain,” Lt Gen Su­ra­chet Hak­parn said on Thurs­day.

Yahya Al­ha­did, pres­i­dent of the Gulf In­sti­tute for Democ­racy and Hu­man Rights (GIDHR), said the “con­tra­dict­ing” state­ments raised con­cerns about how Bahrain was aware of AlAraibi’s planned trip.

“Did Bahrain put him un­der sur­veil­lance or was it spy­ing on him? In [ei­ther] case that brings up the ques­tion: is Bahrain spy­ing on all its op­po­nents out­side the coun­try?” said Al­ha­did.

“If so, this in­di­cates that the safety of all the Bahraini refugees at risk.”

Al­ha­did said there was no le­gal ba­sis for Al-Araibi’s con­tin­u­ing de­ten­tion af­ter the red no­tice was lifted.

“We know that Thai au­thor­i­ties have a bad his­tory send­ing back refugees to their home coun­tries to face their grim fate, as they did with the Bahraini Ali Ha­roon’s in De­cem­ber 2014, and with the Turk­ish teacher Mo­ham­met Sök­men in 2017.”

Al-Araibi, who fled Bahrain af­ter be­ing tar­geted for al­leged links to po­lit­i­cal protests, said he was “out­raged” to learn the Gulf state regime may have

had him un­der sur­veil­lance.

“I’m just a foot­ball player, so busy with my life fo­cus­ing on the sport, I have ab­so­lutely no po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tions, I am not po­lit­i­cally ac­tive,” he said.

Sayed Ahmed Al­wadaei, di­rec­tor of ad­vo­cacy at the Bahrain In­sti­tute for Rights and Democ­racy, said the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment had to make it clear “pub­licly and pri­vately” that the con­tin­u­ing de­ten­tion of Al-Araibi was un­ac­cept­able, and to gain an­swers from Bahrain about al­leged covert sur­veil­lance of an Aus­tralian res­i­dent.

“Af­ter [Ja­mal] Khashoggi’s grue­some mur­der, the world should not un­der­es­ti­mate how far the Gulf states will go to crush dis­sent and si­lenced dis­si­dents. The Thai gov­ern­ment must know it’s cross­ing a red line if it de­ports Ha­keem.”

In­ter­pol has not an­swered spe­cific queries on Al-Araibi’s case.

Mean­while, an ex­tra­di­tion hear­ing in the Bangkok crim­i­nal court ap­pears set to pro­ceed.

An Aus­tralian for­eign af­fairs min­istry spokes­woman said on Wed­nes­day that it had re­ceived le­gal doc­u­ments from Bahrain which needed to be for­warded to the im­mi­gra­tion de­part­ment be­fore the case could be­gin.

Hu­man Rights Watch said a lo­cal lawyer had been hired to rep­re­sent AlAraibi, whose Mel­bourne foot­ball team, Pas­coe Vale FC, has launched a fundraiser to help with le­gal costs.

Pho­to­graph: Ha­keem Al-Araibi for the Guardian

Bahraini refugee Ha­keem Al-Araibi, wholives in Aus­tralia, has been de­tained in Bangkok. The foot­baller fled Bahrain in 2014 andsought asy­lum in Aus­tralia.

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