FILE PHOTO: Former Bahrain soccer player Hakeem Al Araibi, who holds a refugee status in Australia, at court in Bangkok, Thailand Dec 11, 2018. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
DUBAI (Reuters) – FIFA says it has been in regular contact with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) over the Bahraini refugee soccer player arrested in Thailand in November over a prison sentence in his homeland.
The Australian soccer player’s union this week called on the AFC to intervene to help secure the release of Hakeem Al Araibi, who plays in Australia but was arrested in November in Bangkok on an Interpol notice issued at Bahrain’s request.
FIFA has “been working behind the scenes and have been in regular contact with our national associations and with the AFC about this case,” a spokesman told Reuters late on Tuesday.
Last week, the governing body said Araibi should be freed and allowed to return to Australia to continue his career.
Professional Footballers Australia Chief Executive John Didulica criticised the AFC, telling Reuters on Sunday he had seen “no evidence” of action.
The AFC has said it was working with stakeholders, including FIFA, but declined to comment further.
Araibi, a former member of Bahrain’s national soccer team and critic of the government, was convicted of vandalising a police station and sentenced to 10 years in prison in absentia.
He has denied any wrong doing.
Araibi was a vocal critic of AFC President Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, a member of Bahrain’s ruling family and cousin of the king, when he contested the FIFA presidential election in 2015.
Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty