Activists Start Campaign for Thailand to Free Bahraini Soccer Player

(Bloomberg) -- A rights group has started a Twitter campaign to encourage people to write to the Thai junta leader on behalf of a Bahraini soccer player who is being detained in Bangkok but has refugee status in Australia.

Hakeem al-Araibi came to Thailand for a honeymoon and was arrested under a request from Bahrain via an Interpol notice that has since been invalidated, Human Rights Watch said in a statement Tuesday. The country’s military government should release him and let him return to his wife and soccer team in Australia, it said.

Al-Araibi plays for Pascoe Vale Football Club in Melbourne and has been critical of the Bahrain government, according to the rights group. Thailand’s Foreign Ministry said Bahrain has submitted an extradition request.

FIFA, the global governing body for soccer, in a letter last week urged Thai officials to allow Al-Araibi to return to Australia, a stance also backed by the International Olympic Committee.

International rights groups have regularly criticized Bahrain’s human rights record. The island kingdom, a staunch ally of Saudi Arabia, has intensified its clamp down on political dissent since the 2011 Arab Spring.

Earlier in January, Thailand was in the spotlight in another refugee case.

Saudi teen Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun barricaded herself in a hotel room at Bangkok’s main airport after Thai officials tried to detain her. Through social media campaigns and international support, she was able to leave Thailand for Canada as a refugee.

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