Australia police say they didn't know Bahraini was refugee

Posted at 2:55 AM, Feb 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-18 02:55:49-05

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australian Federal Police did not know a Bahraini soccer player was a refugee who feared persecution in his homeland when the agency alerted Bahrain and Thailand he was on a flight bound for Bangkok, a top police official said Monday.

Police Deputy Commissioner Ramzi Jabbour told a Senate committee the two countries were alerted on Nov. 27 almost six hours before Hakeem al-Araibi landed after a nine-hour flight from Melbourne on his honeymoon.

The bungle drew the Australian government, international soccer bodies and human rights advocates into a top-level dispute with Thai and Bahrain governments to gain al-Araibi's freedom. He was detained at the airport and was held 76 days under threat of extradition to Bahrain before he was released last week and returned to Melbourne.

The rules of international policing organization Interpol prevent a Red Notice from being issued for an acknowledged refugee to be sent back to the country from which they fled persecution.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin told the committee that police did not know that al-Araibi was a refugee and did not have access to his visa status when Bahrain applied for a Red Notice to Australia's Interpol bureau on Nov. 9.