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IOC echoes FIFA's call for Hakeem Al-Araibi to be released

Hakeem Alaraibi, a former Bahrain national team is escorted by immigration police to a court in Bangkok on December 11, 2018.
Image: Hakeem Al-Araibi has been detained in Thailand since November

The International Olympic Committee has backed FIFA's calls for a Bahraini footballer to be allowed to return to Australia from Thailand where he is being held on a detention request.

Hakeem Al-Araibi, who has refugee status in Australia, was stopped by Thai immigration on November 27 at Bahrain's request after arriving in Bangkok on honeymoon with his wife.

FIFA has made repeated calls for the footballer - who plays for Melbourne side Pascoe Vale - to be freed, but Asian soccer's leadership has so far declined to publicly back the campaign to secure the release of Al-Araibi.

Image: People in Australia campaign for the release of Al-Araibi

The IOC said its president, Thomas Bach, "has personally discussed this worrying situation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees."

The IOC said its "full support for the FIFA actions in order to find a solution based on 'basic human and humanitarian values'" has been conveyed to the Thai government by IOC member Khunying Patama Leeswadtrakul.

By contrast, the Asian Football Confederation only says it "continues to work with FIFA ... to find a solution."

An AFC statement said senior vice president Praful Patel is handling the matter and not president Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa, a member of Bahrain's royal family, to prevent any "conflict of interest."

Al-Araibi has said he was tortured in Bahrain after his 2012 arrest and fled in 2014 to Australia, which granted him political asylum in 2017.

Bahrain wants its former national team player returned to serve a 10-year prison sentence that was handed down in absentia after he was accused of vandalising a police station, a charge he denies.

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