Bahrain insists on footballer's extradition from Thailand

Hakeem Al-Araibi in Bangkok December. (Reuters file photo)
Updated 28 January 2019
0

Bahrain insists on footballer's extradition from Thailand

  • Hakeem Al-Araibi was jailed in absentia in 2014 for 10 years
  • Interior minister Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa rejected external interference in the process

DUBAI: Bahrain insisted Monday on the extradition from Thailand of a footballer convicted for a terrorism offense.

Hakeem Al-Araibi was jailed in absentia in 2014 for 10 years on charges related to an attack on a police station in 2012.

The 25-year-old, who played for Bahrain's national youth team, fled his homeland while on bail and was granted asylum in Australia where he plays semi-professionally in Melbourne.

He was detained on an Interpol notice in November as he entered Thailand for a vacation.

“Al-Araibi was arrested in Thailand and proceedings to extradite him to Bahrain are in process so that he can serve his sentence,” a Bahraini government statement said.

“He had all the rights and opportunities to defend himself in the criminal case, in which some of the suspects with him were acquitted by the court,” Bahrain’s interior minister Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa said in the government statement.

He added that Al-Araibi may appeal the verdict if he is returned to Bahrain.

The minister said Al-Araibi, who was allowed to travel with the national soccer team while on bail, had fled to Iran from Qatar "never to return."

Sheikh Rashid criticized what he described as “external interference” in Manama's internal affairs.

“Those who speak now of Al-Araibi having been mistreated and those who question the integrity of Bahrain’s courts ignore the fact that Al-Araibi was released on bail of 100 dinars by the courts,” he said.

The footballer denies the charges against him and the Australian government have called for his release.


Ethnic Tubus fear southern Libya offensive

Updated 24 min 59 sec ago
0

Ethnic Tubus fear southern Libya offensive

  • The ethnic group fears vengeance by Arab communities that have joined an offensive by Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army
  • Long marginalized, Tubus live in the Tibesti region, which straddles Libya, Chad and Niger, an area long at the mercy of roaming rebel groups, traffickers and extremists

OUBARI: In the southern Libyan city of Oubari, shops are shuttered and tension is palpable, as residents fear an imminent incursion by forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar.

We “dread the repercussions of military operations that are unfolding on the edge of town,” said 22-year-old hospital administrator Ali Senoussi, speaking on behalf of his Tubu community.

Many residents in Oubari — some 900 kilometers (560 miles) south of Tripoli — are Tubu.

The ethnic group fears vengeance by Arab communities that have joined an offensive by Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), which is on the outskirts of the city.

Long marginalized, Tubus live in the Tibesti region, which straddles Libya, Chad and Niger, an area long at the mercy of roaming rebel groups, traffickers and extremists.

“We are residents of this region. Our support and love for it is immense,” said 22-year-old Senoussi, clothed in a traditional head robe to screen desert sun and wind.

“We cannot accept being involved in wars with Arab tribes that fight alongside Haftar,” he insisted, sipping tea in the courtyard of a hospital where he works as an administrator.

Tubus live in the Tibesti region, which straddles Libya, Chad and Niger.

The LNA says it is seeking to purge “terrorist and criminal groups,” and some accuse the Tubus of supporting Chadian rebels.

But Senoussi dismisses the offensive as “a threat to the social peace of the whole region.”

Tubu lawmakers even allege that ethnic cleansing is under way.

The community was among the first to join the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed Muammar Qaddafi.

But the former dictator’s downfall by no means improved Tubus’ standing in Libya.

Despite being home to some of the country’s biggest oilfields, the region is regularly hit by shortages of all kinds — petrol, electricity, gas cylinders and even bread.

Prices have rocketed on the black market.

Senoussi said the lack of fuel had forced him to leave his car at home and walk to work.

“Most public sector workers prefer to walk” to avoid long queues that have become a fixture of daily life at gas stations, he said.

The intensified chaos of recent years means that the southern border areas are more than ever a haven for extremists, traffickers and rebels.

These groups exploit a security vacuum that is exacerbated by an ongoing power struggle between a UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli and a rival administration loyal to Haftar in northeastern Libya.

Tribal and ethnic quarrels between the Tubus, Tuaregs and Arab groups over trafficking have added fuel to the fire.

“We are Muslims, but we have a culture and language that we share with our cousins from Chad, Niger and Sudan,” explained Ali Yahyia, a Tubu expert on his community.

But this does not undermine “our support for the Libyan homeland,” he insisted.

The LNA launched its ongoing military campaign in mid-January and on Wednesday night entered Murzuk, another southern Libyan city home to many Tubus.

Renowned for a fortress that dates back more than seven centuries, much of the historic settlement now resembles a ghost town.

Murzuk’s windswept streets are littered with garbage.

Like Oubari, shops are closed and people are scared to circulate.

Even bakers — hit by a lack of flour — cannot raise their blinds.

“The city faces numerous problems at the service level, particularly at the hospital where we have only one doctor,” deplored municipal councillor Ibrahim Omar.

“With the military operations that are ongoing, the doctors refuse to come, fearing for their lives,” he said.

If the situation persists, “food stocks will in the end be exhausted.”