“Time is running out” for Hakeem al-Araibi, his wife has written in letters to the leaders of Canada and New Zealand, pleading with them for help to see him returned to Australia.
The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, wrote to his Thai counterpart to push for al-Araibi’s release for the first time last week, adding to pressure brought by Australia’s foreign affairs minister over the previous two months.
Al-Araibi is a Bahraini refugee and Australian resident, who has spent more than two months detained in Thailand while Bahrain seeks his extradition.
He was arrested on arrival in November on an Interpol red notice that was erroneously issued against Interpol policies to Bahrain, where he faces a 10-year prison sentence for a vandalism conviction that has been widely discredited.
On Monday, Bahrain reportedly lodged its formal application with a Thai court, a week ahead of its 8 February deadline.
Al-Araibi’s wife, who does not want to be named, spent the first 10 days sharing a cell with him but has since had to return to Australia.
In a letter to the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, she pleaded for him to pressure the Thai authorities to release al-Araibi.
“Time is running out, and I am pleading desperately to you as a humanitarian, and someone who would not hesitate to stand with justice, please please help my husband,” she wrote, noting Canada’s swift offer of resettlement to Saudi refugee Rahaf al-Qunun.
“His refugee status relates to his persecution in Bahrain. This in itself should be sufficient to showcase the inhumanity of extraditing him back to Bahrain, let alone the fact that it is illegal.”
In a letter to the New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, al-Araibi’s wife described how their attempted honeymoon became a nightmare.
“My husband is going through the hardest days of his life all these 60 days,” she wrote.
To both Canadian and New Zealand leaders, she wrote the “illegal refoulement” sought by Bahrain would put al-Araibi’s life “in certain danger of persecution, imprisonment and possible death”.
“I am terrified that the final decision to deport him will take place within the next few days.”
Multiple governments, human rights groups and world football bodies have lobbied for al-Araibi’s release. Australia’s foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, has publicly and privately sought for Thailand to release him, including during a ministerial visit to Thailand, and again in public statements on Tuesday afternoon.
On Tuesday, Morrison’s office confirmed he personally wrote to Thailand’s prime minister, Prayuth Chan-o-cha, last week, to emphasise al-Araibi’s refugee status in Australia, and said that returning him to Bahrain would infringe on his human rights under international law.
There remain multiple questions about the role of Australian authorities in al-Araibi’s detention, including how the issuing of a red notice against someone to whom Australia had given refugee status went unnoticed. The Australian federal police is also facing questions because it notified Thailand of al-Araibi’s travel plans.
Al-Araibi has said he specifically asked Australian authorities if he was safe to travel to Thailand and was told he was.
On Monday, Bahrain’s interior minister defended his government’s pursuit of al-Araibi, claiming concerns he will face torture and unjust imprisonment if he is returned are “false reports”.
“The external interference in the internal affairs of Bahrain is unacceptable,” said the minister, General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa. “Those raising unfounded doubts about the integrity and independence of the kingdom’s judicial system are not only interfering but also attempting to influence the course of justice.”
In response, human rights groups have pointed to multiple investigations and reports on the torture and mistreatment of prisoners and targeting of opposition figures by the Bahraini justice system.