Bahraini refugee footballer begins open-ended hunger strike in Thailand

Bahraini footballer Hakeem Ali al-Araibi (file photo)
Bahraini footballer Hakeem Ali al-Araibi (file photo)

Bahraini footballer Hakeem Ali al-Araibi has launched an open-ended hunger strike in protest against an “unfair decision by a Thai court to arrest” him and prevent him from returning to his place of residence in Australia.

The chairman of the [Persian] Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, Yahya al-Hadid, in a post published on his official Twitter page, announced that Araibi had been transferred to prison.

Araibi was detained upon arriving in Thailand last week, and now faces deportation to Bahrain where he is at risk of persecution and torture.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on Bangkok to recognize the refugee status of the 25-year-old footballer and let him return to Australia.

Brad Adams, the executive director of the Asian division of HRW, pointed to the “grave dangers” that Araibi faced if he was returned to Manama.

Araibi is wanted in Bahrain over his alleged involvement in attacking a police station for which he received a 10-year prison sentence in absentia.

The footballer says the charges against him are fabricated and that he was in Qatar at the time of the purported incident.

Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the country in mid-February 2011.

They are demanding that the Al Khalifah regime relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.

Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahrain in its crackdown.

Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of the Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown.

On March 5, 2017, Bahrain’s parliament approved the trial of civilians at military tribunals in a measure blasted by human rights campaigners as being tantamount to imposition of an undeclared martial law countrywide.

Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah ratified the constitutional amendment on April 3 last year.

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