Thai attorney general opposes bail for Bahrain refugee footballer

Hakeem al-Araibi was granted refugee status in Australia after fleeing charges in Bahrain connected to Arab Spring protests but was stopped in Thailand in November.

Bahraini Hakeem al-Araibi, center, leaves the criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand. The soccer player who has refugee status in Australia told a Thai court that he refuses to be voluntarily extradited to Bahrain, which has asked for his return to serve a prison sentence for a crime he denies committing.   -  AP

Thai prosecutors will oppose bail for a refugee football player detained in Bangkok and facing extradition to Bahrain, the office of the attorney general said on Wednesday, citing flight risks.

Hakeem al-Araibi was granted refugee status in Australia after fleeing charges in Bahrain connected to Arab Spring protests but was stopped in Thailand in November attempting to go on his honeymoon.

He is wanted for damaging a police station but the former national youth footballer says the case is bogus and tied to his criticism of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, a member of Bahrain's ruling family.

The 25-year-old fears being returned to Bahrain where he believes he could face imprisonment and torture. A Thai court this week extended his detention by another 60 days after which he will have a chance to object to Bahrain's extradition request.

The Thai attorney general's Office told reporters Wednesday that with extradition requests bail would be opposed.

“If you look at the number of foreign defendants, they pay their bail and jump bail and then don't show up in court,” Chatchom Akapin, the office's director general for international affairs, said, adding that the policy applied “not only to Hakeem”.

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