Soccer Player’s Detention Poses ‘historic Test’ For Global Sports
Initially, Thai officials said Mr. Araibi had been detained based on an Interpol request alerting the immigration authorities to fugitives of justice. But Interpol quickly lifted that request because such alerts, called red notices, are not supposed to apply to refugees.
Nevertheless, Bahrain has formally asked Thailand for Mr. Araibi’s extradition so he can return to face a 10-year prison sentence for a conviction in absentia on charges that he burned a police station, among other convictions.
Last week, the extradition request was passed on to the Thai attorney general’s office, said Busadee Santipitaks, a spokeswoman for the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, meaning that Mr. Araibi’s fate could be decided in a matter of days.
Mr. Araibi was playing in a televised football match when the police station he was supposed to have attacked was burned. Bahrain has racked up thousands of questionable convictions related to its crushing of its Arab Spring movement in 2011, when hundreds of thousands of Bahrainis joined street protests, human rights groups say.
Thailand, which has not signed an international convention on refugees, has a history of extraditing human rights defenders to countries they have fled, like China or Bahrain, where they are likely to face imprisonment or torture.
In early January, however, a Saudi teenager who had flown to Bangkok and feared death from her family, avoided deportation and was eventually allowed to travel on to Canada, where she was granted asylum. Her release followed an outcry on social media.
In 2016, Sheikh Salman, who has refused to answer questions about Mr. Araibi’s detention in Thailand, ran for the FIFA presidency. But his front-runner status diminished in part because of questions raised about Bahrain’s record of imprisoning protesters, including members of the national soccer team.