—- On the eve of the Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates, #NewFIFANow has called on the president of the Asian Football Confederation to use his influence to free Hakeem Al-Araibi from a Bangkok jail.

The case of Hakeem Al-Araibi involves three countries taking part in the Asian Cup: defending champions Australia, Thailand, and Bahrain, the nation of AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa. ]

Al-Araibi has been in jail in Bangkok since November, after he travelled there with his wife for a holiday.

#NewFIFANow spokesman, Jaimie Fuller. said: “As a refugee with legal rights and specific status under international refugee conventions, Mr Al-Araibi is entitled to protection because of the refugee status granted to him by the Australian government. The Thai government should let this young man go, and the Bahrain government should not be seeking his return to Bahrain.”

Al-Araibi was allegedly detained by Thai authorities on the request of the Bahrain government when they learned he was travelling out of Australia.

“We all know that the President of the Asian Football Confederation, Sheikh Salman, is an important member of the Bahrain Royal Family, and it is entirely within his power to order that Mr Al-Araibi’s illegal detention in Thailand cease, and allow him to travel home to Australia immediately,” said Fuller.

“We also all know that Hakeem Al-Araibi was a vocal critic of Shaikh Salman’s candidacy for the FIFA President in 2016.

“Despite that criticism, we would be shocked if Shaikh Salman condoned the flagrant disregard of international conventions regarding the right and status of refugees, and we call on him to urge the Bahrain government to stop their reported action against a vulnerable individual.

“Mr Al-Araibi is also a football player in one of Australia’s domestic competitions.

“Considering Asia’s biggest football tournament is about to get underway, with Australia, Bahrain and Thailand all involved, Shaikh Salman could show the football world that he respects the rule of international law and champion the freedom of Hakeem Al-Araibi.

“Living in Australia, playing football and contributing to the Australian community, Mr Al-Araibi is doing Shaikh Salman, the Bahrain Royal Family or the good people of Bahrain no harm.

“By keeping Mr Al-Araibi in jail in Thailand, at the request of the Bahrain government, immeasurable harm is being done to the reputation of both the Bahrain and Thai governments,” Mr Fuller said.

#NewFIFANow encourages all football supporters, human rights advocates, and players everywhere to help #SaveHakeem by use of the hashtag in English or in Arabic  أنقذوا_حكيم# on social media and by writing to relevant football and government authorities. Details are included on the #NewFIFANow website at http://www.newfifanow.org/january-4-2019.html.

Hakeem Al-Araibi is a former national team player of Bahrain who was granted refugee status by Australia in 2017. He fled Bahrain after being jailed as part of the crackdown on dissidents in 2011 and after being falsely accused of theft – something he could not have committed as he was playing for the national team in a televised match at the time of the alleged crime.