Jakarta: Lawyers for Hakeem al-Araibi have lodged an urgent request for Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to grant the refugee footballer Australian citizenship.
Araibi, who was granted refugee status by Australia after he fled Bahrain – where he was convicted in absentia of a crime he says he didn't commit – is being held in a Thai detention centre.
He faces extradition to Bahrain by Thai authorities after being detained on November 27 because an Interpol red notice seeking his arrest had been incorrectly issued at Bahrain's request.
Thai prison guards lead Bahraini football player Hakeem al-Araibi from a courthouse in Bangkok.Credit:AP
Refugees are not supposed to be subject to red notices requested by the country from which they have fled.
Supporters of Araibi, who plays semi-professional football for Melbourne's Pascoe Vale Football Club, argue he faces torture and prison if he is returned to Baharain and have asked for the footballer to be returned to Australia where he has permanent residency.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne has demanded Araibi's release, too, though it subsequently emerged that it was Australia that notified Thailand about the footballer's travel plans – a move that drew strong criticism from Araibi's supporters.
If the Australian government were to grant him Australian citizenship it would potentially make it more politically difficult for Thailand to extradite Araibi to Bahrain.
Latifa al-Haouli of Sabelberg Morcos Lawyers lodged the request for ministerial intervention on December 10, claiming the minister had the Australian Citizenship Act to exercise his discretion and grant citizenship in special circumstances.
"This is a matter of national interest, far exceeding the criteria of public interest used to assess ministerial interventions," Haouli said.
"The applicant is seeking to be granted with Australian citizenship due to ongoing human rights atrocities surrounding his unlawful detention in Thailand, treatment of refugees and prospective extradition to Bahrain."
But a spokeswoman for the Department of Home Affairs dismissed the request in a carefully worded statement.
"All persons applying for Australian citizenship must meet the legal requirements under the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 in order to be granted citizenship," she said.
"Neither the Minister, nor the Department have the power to waive any of the legal requirements in the Australian Citizenship Act 2007, nor does the Minister have the power to automatically grant citizenship."
Fatima Yazbek from the Australia-based Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights backed the call for the minister to intervene and grant Araibi citizenship.
Doing so, she said, could help "save his life from the imminent danger he will face if deported to Bahrain. Bahraini prisons lack the minimum standards of prisoners’ rights, and the political prisoners are suffering from miserable conditions and lack of their basic rights".
Former Thai foreign minister Kasit Piromya has said Araibi should be freed and allowed to return to Australia.
Four former captains of the Socceroos – Craig Moore, Craig Foster, Alex Tobin and Paul Wade – have publicly backed calls for Araibi to be released by Thailand and returned to Australia.
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