Australia ramps pressure on Thailand to free Bahraini footballer | #AsiaNewsNetwork

Hakeem al-Araibi a Bahraini refugee and Australian resident is escorted to a courtroom in Bangkok

The situation has seen the Football Federation of Australia cancel an upcoming U23 men's team trip to Thailand, where they had been due to play a warmup match against China.

Thailand faces increasing worldwide pressure for the detention and possible extradition of a Bahraini football player as a social media campaign takes off for his release.

The Thai government made the announcement in a press conference Wednesday, just one day after al-Araibi appeared in court with his ankles in shackles.

Foster and the players unions' have called on the International Olympic Committee to consider sporting sanctions against Thailand and Bahrain.

On Monday, al-Araibi told a court in Thailand's capital that he refused to be voluntarily extradited to Bahrain.

Bahraini Hakeem al-Araibi, center, leaves the criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand, Bangkok, Thailand, Monday, Feb. 4, 2019.

Al-Araibi will stay in custody until a court begins hearings on April 22 on his extradition case.

"Please speak to Thailand, don't send me to Bahrain".

Bahrain this week issued a statement defending its decision to pursue al-Araibi after he allegedly fled while awaiting trial.

Al-Araibi was convicted of vandalising a police station during 2011 anti-government protests in Bahrain and sentenced in absentia after he fled.

He was detained upon his arrival in Bangkok in November while on honeymoon and subsequently was held pending the completion of the extradition request by Bahrain.

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The sight of a chained al-Araibi inspired Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to second a second letter to Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha following his first correspondence in January.

Former Socceroos captain Craig Foster has been leading the fight to have al-Araibi freed and says Bahrain and Thailand should be threatened with immediate expulsion from world sport over the issue.

It said he had been granted bail to travel for a football tournament and had violated the terms while taking "special consideration granted to him as a sportsman".

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the Thai attorney-general has confirmed that the Extradition Act allows for such discretion.

"I would be very disappointed if as a result of how this was handled that that relationship between the Thai and Australian people were affected", he told reporters in Melbourne on Wednesday.

The Thai government has also come under heavy criticism for its harsh treatment of the case and of the prisoner.

The latter hashtag consisted mostly of tweets that either defended the "fair" court system now mulling the refugee footballer's fate, or put the blame back on Australia.

Bahrain's embassy in Bangkok said al-Araibi was a fugitive who should be returned.

Bahraini authorities deny allegations of torture.

"We reassessed our plans due to the ongoing detainment of Australian footballer Hakeem al-Araibi in a Thai prison", head coach Graham Arnold said in a statement, adding that the FFA would look for another host country.

The Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) which is also a signatory, separately said the Thai attorney-general should use his discretion to withdraw the case to "reduce pressure from the worldwide community and make our stand to protect refugees from persecution".

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