FIFA asks Thai premier to release Bahraini soccer player

ZURICH (AP) — FIFA has written to the Thai prime minister calling for the release of a Bahraini refugee soccer player who is in detention while embroiled in an extradition case.

Australia granted Hakeem al-Araibi asylum in 2017, but Bahrain wants its former national team player returned to serve a prison sentence for allegedly vandalizing a police station — a charge he denies.

Al-Araibi, who lives in Melbourne, was arrested while on vacation in Thailand last month on an Interpol notice. Bahrain is seeking custody after sentencing Al-Araibi in absentia in 2014 to 10 years in prison.

In a letter to Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura asked the country “to take the necessary steps to ensure that Mr. AI-Araibi is allowed to return safely to Australia at the earliest possible moment, in accordance with the relevant international standards.”

The Asian Football Confederation, which is led by Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa, a member of Bahrain’s royal family, did not immediately comment on the letter.

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