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Australian PM says was shocked to see Bahraini footballer in shackles in Thailand

CANBERRA: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that he was shocked a Bahraini footballer in shackles in Thailand:

He said that he was disturbed to see Bahraini refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi in shackles in Thailand, adding that he told the Thai prime minister that the matter was a “serious issue for Australians”.

According to Reuters news agency, the Australian PM said that he thought was very upsetting and he knows it would have upset many Australians, and I respectfully reminded the Thai prime minister that Australians feel very strongly about this.

He said that they would continue to make these representations both to Thailand and Bahrain.

Pressure is mounting on Bangkok to release Al-Araibi, who was arrested by Thai authorities in November on behalf of the Bahraini government. Both Canberra and the International Federation of Football (FIFA) have called for his return to Australia where he plays football.

Al-Araibi, who fled Bahrain in 2014 before being granted a permanent residence in Australia, has said that he would face torture if he was sent back to Bahrain for his criticism of the royal family.

The Thai court working on Al-Araibi’s case yesterday extended his detention for another two months.

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha announced on Tuesday that his government could not intervene in the court proceedings. “Do not jump to a conclusion about the verdict and do not politicise this,” Prayuth said.

The Bahraini defendant was convicted of “vandalising a police station in Bahrain” and was sentenced to ten years in prison in absentia. He has repeatedly denied the accusations, stressing that he was playing in a televised soccer match at the time.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Al-Araibi was also tortured by Bahraini authorities over his brother’s political activities during the so-called 2011 Arab Spring. But Bahraini authorities deny the allegations.