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  February 02, 2019

(28 Jan 2019) Soccer activists campaigning for the release of a Bahraini refugee player detained in Thailand say his plight has become an emergency.
Former Australia captain Craig Foster said at FIFA headquarters on Monday that Bahrain had formally submitted an extradition request to Thailand for the return of Hakeem al-Araibi.
The former Bahrain national team player has refugee status in Australia and fears being tortured in his home country.
"This matter has become an absolute emergency," Foster said after meeting with FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino will join Asian soccer leaders at the end of the week for the Asian Cup final in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
FIFA agreed with al-Araibi's supporters, Foster said, that they need to increase contacts with government and soccer officials in Bahrain and Thailand.
Samoura has written in support of al-Araibi to Thailand's prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha.
The Asian Football Confederation's president is Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa of Bahrain.
Al-Araibi has been jailed since November in Thailand - where he arrived with his wife on vacation - on an Interpol notice wrongfully requested by Bahrain because he is a recognised refugee.
Human rights groups believe Al-Araibi risks being tortured in Bahrain, which he fled in 2014.
That year, he was sentenced in absence to ten years imprisonment on a charge he denies of vandalising a police station.
Al-Araibi has claimed he was targeted for arrest because of his Shiite faith and because his brother was politically active.
Bahrain is ruled by a Sunni monarchy which survived a failed uprising in the "Arab Spring" protests in 2011.
Australia gave him political asylum in 2017 and he now plays for the Pascoe Vale club in Melbourne.

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