A touching image of Bahrainian footballer Hakeem al Araibi, showing his ankles hung in shackles as he touched down in the city of Bangkok, Thailand on Monday, has the footballer turned into a worldwide sensation. His detainment in the Asian country has, most importantly, exposed a typical but questioning practice to the public view.
The image of the refugee and former Bahrainian international in shackles has gone far and wide, but has scarcely been seen in Thailand itself, since the local authorities have denied the publication of uncensored photos of prisoners.
“The guards said there was a risk the prisoner would flee. Mr Hakeem is a former footballer and is naturally worthy of suspicion in a case of such international weight,” argued Krit Krasaetip, director of the Preventative Detainment prison of Bangkok in which Al Araibi is being held.
As indicated by a report about Thailand’s jail system published by the International Federation of Human Rights in 2017, even those anticipating judgment in court for insignificant violations must wear shackles while being transported to their place of judgment.
Thailand’s judiciary calls them ‘wife shackles‘ and routinely use them while transporting detainees outside prison perimeters, in spite of the fact that the law permits those in control to decide if they need to utilize this strategy or not,” clarifies Sunai Phasuk, a human rights examiner in Thailand.
“The use of shackles is viewed as an infringement of Article 7 of the International Pact of Civil and Political Rights,” Sunai stated, alluding to the article that forbids acts of cold-bloodedness esteemed corrupting or inhumane.
The practice was extended out inside Thai penitentiaries until 2013 when the administration chose to cancel it. Anyway, this and the use of other comparative objects of mistreatment has kept on being used “with excessive frequency“, as indicated by the International Federation of Human Rights.
In November last year, the 25-year-old and his wife flew to Thailand for their honeymoon, believing his Australian visa allowed him to travel safely.
But they were detained immediately when they landed at Bangkok’s Airport in response to an Interpol “red notice”.
Countries belonging to Interpol can issue the notices, asking other countries to help locate and arrest a person wanted in a criminal matter.
But they’re not meant to be issued against a refugee when the notice is requested by the country from which they fled.
Thailand blames Australia for the arrest
Mr al-Araibi told the ABC that if he is freed, he will be afraid to travel internationally again.
The Thai Foreign Ministry said Mr al-Araibi was arrested because a police bureau that handles Interpol matters in Australia notified Thai authorities of his imminent arrival.
“It took several days after the arrival of Mr Hakeem before the Australian authorities informed us that the red notice had been cancelled,” the ministry said in a statement.
“By that time, legal proceedings in Thailand regarding Mr Hakeem had already started and could not be reversed.”
Thai officials also claimed Australian officials didn’t tell them until more than a week after his arrest that Mr al-Araibi was a refugee.
In spite of the request’s retirement, a procedure had already been set up in which the decision about Hakeem al Araibi‘s confinement was put under the control of Thai officials, who this Monday reported that he would stay in their grasp until April 22.
He lives in an information vacuum, without access to phones or newspapers. Mr al-Araibi seemed to be unaware he could spend another six months in prison while the Thai Criminal Court assesses Bahrain’s extradition request. He was in utter despair when the news was broke to him.
However, the 25-year-old is doing his best to keep busy while he waits to learn his fate. He plays football with the other inmates in a small courtyard inside the prison and is keeping up a fitness regimen so he will be able to continue his football career at Melbourne’s Pascoe Vale FC.
His greatest concern is for his wife, who returned to Melbourne after his arrest. She is supposed to be going to university next month to do a degree in business, and Mr al-Araibi worries his predicament will force her to delay her studies.
Since his arrest, a progression of requests and protest for his release have risen, with the Australian government and football league looking for further support from football and sporting world to join the fight to #SaveHakeem with Didier Drogba and Giorgio Chiellini lending their voices to the cause
Australia ex-player Craig Foster has been particulary vocal in regards to the issue.
‘I love Giorgio, he’s a defender, like me.. amazing, I thank them so much..’ He saw the protests at Opera House, Fed Square on the news, so thankful. ‘I will repay Australia with everything I have.. tell @ScottMorrisonMP I will make a big contribution to the country’ #SaveHakeem
— Craig Foster (@Craig_Foster) February 6, 2019
“Feel guilty leaving if something needed here but important meetings planned at home as well,” Foster wrote on Twitter.
“I’ll take a day to review where we’re at, next steps in the campaign, who to target and let everyone know shortly.”
On February 1 the Thailand prosecution team presented to a Bangkok court the extradition request sent days earlier sent by the Bahrain authorities. Amid this, Al Araibi was heard to shout “Don’t send me to Bahrain!”
While Al Araibi’s future is yet still dicey, the footballer will keep on being locked away in the slammer, appearing from time to time under the watchful eye of the court with shackles around his ankles.