'I’m trying to be brave - but inside I’m broken'

 ftbl.com.au  01/10/2019 00:55:03 

The former Bahraini international is an Aussie permanent resident and refugee but he was grabbed by Thai officials in Bangkok 45 days ago while on holiday with his wife.

Interpol acted on demands from Bahrain to arrest Hakeem four years after he fled the country. Supporters fear he faces torture and death if he returns to the Middle East.

“I’m trying to be brave. But inside I’m broken," he told ABC reporter Sophie McNeill. “I ask the Australian government, please don’t forget me."

Hakeem told McNeill he is being held in a cell with 50 other prisoners and conditions are so cramped he can't even roll over in his sleep.

Today Australian Foreign Minister Marisa Payne is meeting Thai officials to demand the Melbourne-based player for Pascoe Vale FC in the NPL is freed.

She told The Guardian she would “advocate for the safe return to Australia of Mr Hakeem Alaraibi, who is currently detained in Thailand.

"Mr Alaraibi was granted permanent residency by the Australian government in recognition of his status as a refugee.”

Football Federation Australia have also added to the pressure and are reported to have this week finally met with AFC president (and Bahraini royal) Sheikh Salman al-Khalifa.

A spokesman told The Guardian: “FFA confirms it has also held direct dialogue with senior officials from Fifa, AFC and the Football Association of Thailand.”

Today FIFA added their voice to the fight to free Hakeem today and issued a statement demanding he is allowed to return to Australia and play football again.

"Following a renewed exchange with the Australian Football Federation, FIFA is again calling for a humane and speedy resolution of the case concerning the player Hakeem Al Araibi," said the FIFA statement.

"This situation should not have arisen, in particular, since Mr Al-Araibi now lives and works and plays as a professional footballer in Australia, where he has been accorded refugee status.

"FIFA is therefore calling on all the relevant authorities to take the necessary steps to ensure that Mr Hakeem Al-Araibi is allowed to return safely to Australia where he can resume his career as a professional footballer."

Former Socceroo Craig Foster has organised a protest rally in support of Hakeem at Sydney Opera House at 12.30pm today.

He tweeted earlier: "Hakeem has powerful interests against him as he spoke out against a whole regime, for his people, as a prominent athlete which made him a target.

"He cannot be allowed to suffer any longer."

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