Thailand must release imprisoned Aussie footballer

Thailand must release imprisoned Aussie footballer

The peak body for working people has called on the Thai Government to release illegally imprisoned Australian footballer Hakeem al-Arabi.

Mr al-Arabi, a member of ACTU affiliate Professional Footballers Australia, arrived in Australia from Bahrain in 2014 and has been granted refugee status. A permanent Australian resident, he plays for Pascoe Vale FC in Melbourne’s north and is a former member of the Bahrain national team.

Mr al-Arabi was illegally imprisoned after Thailand was alerted by Australian authorities to an Interpol red notice issued by Bahrain seeking his extradition. Using red notices to detain people fleeing persecution, repression and torture is against Interpol rules.

Mr al-Arabi has a wife in Australia and fears being tortured or killed if he is handed over to Bahrain. He was detained while on holiday in Thailand late last year and has been in a Thai prison since then.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne is lobbying for his release today as part of her visit to Thailand.  

Supporters of Mr al-Arabi will gather at the Sydney Opera House at 12:30pm today to protest his imprisonment.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Michele O’Neil:

“Our number one concern is for the safe return to Australia of Mr al-Arabi – an Australian resident and an Australian union member.

“It is unacceptable to our movement and to the values of working people that an Australian union member has been imprisoned in a foreign country at the request of a country that wants to torture him and possibly end his life.

“I welcome Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s lobbying of the Thai Government for his release in her discussions today and urge her to advocate in the strongest possible terms.

“I also urge the international union movement, and the international football community – including governing bodies at a national and international level – to speak out against the illegal and unacceptable treatment of a professional footballer.

“Workers, governments and the football community have a shared responsibility to secure this young man’s release, to ensure that he is returned safely, and not handed over to a regime that could torture or kill him.”