SYDNEY (Reuters) – Former Australia soccer captain Craig Foster will lobby officials at world governing body FIFA later on Monday for them to intervene on behalf of a Bahraini refugee player being detained in Thailand and facing deportation to his country.
Foster will meet with FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura and other senior officials to discuss the detention of Hakeem Al Araibi in Thailand.
Thai authorities arrested Al Araibi, who has refugee status in Australia, on arrival at Bangkok airport in November last year, on the basis of an Interpol notice issued at Bahrain’s request.
Araibi was convicted of vandalising a police station in Bahrain and sentenced to 10 years in prison in absentia.
He has denied any wrongdoing but now awaits a Thai court hearing and faces the possibility of being sent to Bahrain.
Foster will also present FIFA with a 50,000-signature petition demanding Araibi’s immediate release, the international players union Fifpro said in a statement.
The former Australia midfielder met with Araibi in a Bangkok detention centre last week and urged FIFA to do more for him.
The world governing body has said Araibi should be freed and allowed to return to Australia to continue his career.
Araibi, who used to play for the Bahrain national team, was granted refugee status in Australia in 2017 and now plays for Pascoe Vale, a second tier club in Melbourne.
The player has been a vocal critic of the president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, who is a cousin of the Bahraini king.
Sheikh Salman is senior vice-president of FIFA and ran for president of the body in 2016, losing to current chief Gianni Infantino.
AFC, which is currently hosting the 2019 Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates, said over the weekend that Sheik Salman had no influence on the handling of the case.
(Writing by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)