Aussie Refugee Footballer 'Losing Hope' In Thai Prison
Hakeem Al-Araibi has been locked up in a Thai prison for close to three months but is still no closer to finding out whether he will be allowed to return to Australia or extradited to Bahrain.
The rising football star, who was granted refugee status in Australia in 2017 and is now a permanent resident, has repeatedly claimed he fled torture in his homeland.
In November he was arrested at Bangkok airport on the first day of his honeymoon with his wife, whom he now has not seen in more than a month.
The former Bahraini international player now plays for Melbourne football club Pascoe Vale FC in the Victorian National Premier League -- the second tier of the Australian league system.
Former Socceroo and SBS Broadcaster Craig Foster has been following Al-Araibi's case closely and visited him in jail for The Project, in what he described as an "emotional experience".
"You know, he’s a young man who is losing hope very quickly," Foster told the Project on Thursday.
"We spoke about his wife and he said “just tell her please I need to see you once because I know I'll never see you again'"
Evan Jones from the Refugee Rights Network has been fighting for months to have Al-Araibi released from prison, and said the young footballer is struggling to cope behind bars.
"He’s a torture survivor and he’s also a refugee, having fled Bahrain when he was 18-years-old and making his way to Australia," Jones said on The Project.
"It’s that sort of traumatic experience and you can compound that with this sort of incarceration, he’s sharing a cell with 50 other people and there’s no mental health providers.
Al-Araibi will remain in his prison cell until at least February 8, after which he could either be returned to Australia or begin the lengthy legal process of extradition to Bahrain.
He has repeatedly insisted that he would be killed if he were to return to his homeland.
Al-Araibi was arrested and allegedly tortured in 2012 as part of a crackdown on more than 100 athletes who took part in pro-democracy protests.
He later fled to Australia and was granted asylum.
Two years later Bahrain convicted him in absentia over a crime supposedly committed on the same evening he played in a televised football match.
There have been a growing number of calls for Al-Araibi to be released and brought back to Australia since he was first detained, including from FIFA, the governing body of world football.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said the government is "very concerned" about his detention.
Foster said Al-Araibi is a political prisoner and the international community needs to push for his release.
"It's very simple -- they just need to release him".
An Amnesty International petition lobbying for his release has received more than 20,000 signatures.
Catch The Project from Sunday to Friday at 6.30pm on Ten and on Tenplay.
Featured Image: AAP