Wed, 03 Jun 2020

Bahrain ends furore over detained footballer

By Jay Jackson, Sydney News.Net
11 Feb 2019, 21:47 GMT+10

MANAMA, Bahrain - While the international community is celebrating the imminent release of footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi, Bahrain, which ordered his detenion in Thailand, remains steadfast in its pursuit of bringing him to justice.

What Bahrain has done is drop its request for extradition.

"The guilty verdict against Mr. Al Araibi remains in place and Mr. Al Araibi holds the right to appeal this court verdict at Bahrain's Court of Appeal," the kingdom's foreign ministry said in a statement released on Tuesday.

"The Kingdom of Bahrain reaffirms its right to pursue all necessary legal actions against Mr. Al Araibi."

Despite its tough stance, Bahrain made the right and sensible decision to stop the extradition proceedings which were causing international protests and damaging the country's reputation.

It was also straining ties with Thailand and Australia, and the world football governing body FIFA.

Thailand for its part was intent on allowing the legal process to take its course. It was looking to Bahrain to get it off the hook. Australia too, with repeated requests from levels as high as Prime Minister Scott Morrison making representations, was pressuring Thailand and Bahrain. On Monday, Bahrain relented and withdrew its request for the extradition.

On Tuesday however Bahrain, despite resolving the immediate future of the footballer, was defensive of its action in taking out the extradition order, and was blaming Al Araibi for his predicament.

"The decision to issue an international arrest warrant stems from Mr. Al Araibi's decision to flee while awaiting trial," the Bahrain foreign ministery said in its statement on Tuesday.

"Mr. Al Araibi was granted bail and prior to his court hearing, was also granted special permission in December 2013 to travel to participate in a football tournament in Qatar, during which he absconded to Iran. In addition to violating the terms of his bail, Mr. Al Araibi also took advantage of a special consideration granted to him as a sportsman."

"The issuance of international arrest warrants is standard practice for all Interpol member countries and a vital mechanism for fighting crime. Mr. Al Araibi, as with defendants in all criminal cases in Bahrain, is guaranteed full legal rights and protections with full access to proper representation," the Bahrain foreign ministry said.

"On 6 January 2014, Mr. Al Araibi was convicted of a number of offences under Bahrain's penal code. He was not present to defend himself or to refute the charges against him of possessing incendiary devices, having been involved with others in an arson attack and causing damage to property.  Mr. Al Araibi holds the right to appeal this court decision if present at Bahrain's Court of Appeal, as others involved in this case have done so."

Nonetheless, a Thai court has approved the request to drop extradition proceedings and Al Araibi will now be freed from his jail cell in Thailand and will be be allowed to return to his new home in Australia. The beleagured footballer had flown to Thailand in November for a honeymoon after checking with Australian government authorities, who said he was free to travel. In an apparent mix-up another Australian government agency alerted Thai police that Al Arabi was wanted by Interpol. He was subsequently arrested. Al-Araibi is still playing football and is currently signed to the Melbourne-based Pascoe Vale club. 

Related story:

Footballer freed after top level meeting in Bahrain on Monday



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