/Soccer: FIFA says in regular contact with AFC over detained Bahraini player

Soccer: FIFA says in regular contact with AFC over detained Bahraini player

FILE PHOTO: The logo of FIFA is seen in front of its headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

DUBAI (Reuters) – FIFA says it has been in regular contact with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) over the Bahraini soccer player arrested in Thailand in November over a prison sentence in his homeland.

The Australian soccer players’ 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.

Araibi, who played for Bahrain’s national soccer team and was a critic of the government, had been convicted of vandalising a police station and sentenced to 10 years in prison in absentia.

He denies wrongdoing. The Bahrain government says Araibi can appeal against the sentence if he returns to the kingdom. Araibi was granted asylum in Australia in 2017 after fleeing Bahrain three years earlier.

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.

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 said late on Tuesday.

Last week, the governing body said Araibi should be freed and allowed to return to Australia to continue his career.

The AFC has said it was working with groups including FIFA, but declined to comment further.

Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty and Alison Williams

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