Bahraini footballer fears 'torture' if deported by Thailand

Bahraini footballer fears 'torture' if deported by Thailand Bahraini footballer fears 'torture' if deported by Thailand

A Bahraini footballer who enjoys a political refugee status in Australia but has been arrested during a recent trip to Thailand says he fears facing "torture" upon political deportation to Bahrain.

Hakeem al-Araibi told The New York Times on Thursday that he feared he would “be tortured again.” He said he had been arrested and tortured once in 2012 for his brother’s alleged participation in pro-democracy protests in the Persian Gulf kingdom, adding, “They wanted to hurt me so I could not play football again.”

'Last message'

"This might be my last message. I still don’t know whether I will be deported to Bahrain tomorrow. I appeal to the United Nations, individual states, FIFA, footballers, and all people, as my fate is now in danger and my future will soon be over," he told the London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.

Al-Araibi, who plays for a Melbourne football club, traveled to Thailand with his wife for a honeymoon, but was arrested upon arrival.

Minky Worden, director of Global Initiatives at New York-based Human Rights Watch, said he had been "unjustly detained on bogus 'red notice' in Thailand."

In a statement to The Times, FIFA said al-Araibi had to return safely to Australia. “FIFA supports the calls for the Thai authorities to allow Mr. al-Araibi to return to Australia where he currently enjoys refugee status at the earliest possible moment,” the body said.

The athlete became a refugee in 2014 after a Bahraini court sentenced him to 10 years in prison in absentia for allegedly burning down a police station. He says he was playing in a televised match when the alleged incident took place.

Observers say he could now face even a harsher treatment upon potential return to Bahrain in the light of the international reprimand his case has invited for Manama and his criticism against Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, a member of the royal family, in 2016 for arresting athletes who had joined anti-regime protest in the country.

Bahrain has been facing protests since 2011, when the public began demanding establishment of a constitutional monarchy and equality. 

The regime has reacted with disproportionate force to the peaceful protests, outlawing opposition parties, detaining hundreds, and killing scores of others.

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