IOC joins calls for Thailand to release refugee footballer

London (AFP) –


The International Olympic Committee on Saturday joined in the chorus of support for a footballer with refugee status who has been detained in Thailand for nearly two months over his alleged role in Bahrain's Arab Spring protests.

Hakeem Alaraibi, 25, who played for the Gulf state's national youth team, fled his homeland and was granted asylum in Australia where he plays semi-professionally in Melbourne.

He was detained entering Thailand for a vacation. Interpol has faced criticism for initially issuing the warrant for his arrest, which it later withdrew.

The Australian government, human rights groups and world football's governing body FIFA have all called for Alaraibi's release.

On Saturday the IOC also lent its backing.

"The IOC supports Mr Al-Araibi and the FIFA position in this case," the organisation said in a statement.

The statement added that the IOC Member in Thailand, Khunying Patama Leeswadtrakul, had asked the Thai government "to find a solution based on 'basic human and humanitarian values.'"

It said that IOC President, Thomas Bach, had "personally discussed the worrying situation with the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Filippo Grandi."

Bahraini authorities sentenced Alaraibi to 10 years in prison for allegedly helping protesters burn down a police station during demonstrations that swept the Gulf state in 2012.

The footballer denied the charges, noting he was playing in a match at the time.