Hakeem Al-Araibi has slammed Football Federation Australia for backing the Bahrain sheikh who wanted to see him jailed and tortured.
The FFA board has admitted it intends to back current Asian Football Confederation President Salmain bin Al-Khalifa when his position comes up for re-election next month.
But he is a member of the ruling Bahrain Royal Family who ordered Thailand to jail Hakeem for more than two months over Christmas while they demanded his extradition to Bahrain.
They wanted the former Bahrain international-turned-Pascoe Vale FC footballer to face trumped up charges for speaking out against the ruling regime.
He had previously been jailed and tortured in Bahrain for protesting against the regime before fleeing for his life and being given political refuge in Australia until his arrest in Thailand while trying to go on honeymoon with his wife.
He was only freed after international pressure from Craig Foster, the PFA and Amnesty International forced Bahrain to drop their demands.
But the FFA are backing one of the key figures behind Al-Araibi's ordeal.
Now Hakeem - who became an Australia citizen last month - has hit out at the decision.
"Today I am shocked and disappointed that the FFA has decided to continue to support a person who oversaw my detention and torture in Bahrain," said Hakeem.
"How can he be a ‘fit and proper’ leader for football in our region?
"I was overwhelmed by the support I had from the Australian and Asian football communities who worked so hard to free me from unjust detention in Thailand."
The FFA flagged their likely intention to back the Bahrain powerbroker earlier this month when they outlined the options available to them and the need for them to maintain favour with Gulf States in the AFC.
"Our position in Asia in my view is more fragile that it should be," said Nikou. "But I think it's a relationship most football people would say we want to preserve.
"We have good friends and support to the East [of Asia]. We're not that well-liked to the West. But I understand the concern."
In the end, the FFA board has decided to back the incumbent President in order not to rock the boat.
One alternative was Qatar candidate Saoud A.Aziz A Al-Mohannadi, but Qatar is currently politically isolated from the its neighbouring Gulf state countries.
A third alternative was UAE candidate Mohamed Khalfan Al Romaithi, but the FFA opted to go with where the power currently is, despite the outcry over Al-Araibi.
At a meeting of the ASEAN countries in Cambodia at the weekend, the group of south-east Asian nations, including Australia, decided as a block to support Al-Khalifa.
“It was the consensus view of all of ASEAN that Shaikh Salman is the best credentialed candidate to continue to lead the development of football both in ASEAN and in Asia more broadly,” said Nikou
“Under the leadership of the Shaikh Salman, the size of the AFC Asian Cup has expanded, the FIFA World Cup qualification process has broadened, new football development initiatives have been introduced, prizemoney and subsidies for clubs participating in the AFC Champions League have increased and significantly improved terms were secured with AFC’s new marketing rights partner.”
“After discussion between the 12 Member Associations of the ASEAN region, we resolved in solidarity to support Shaikh Salman’s candidacy."
He defended the FFA's position in relation to Hakeem and highlighted the role the FFA had played in helping to enable his release.
Nikou added: "We were in regular dialogue with the AFC, FIFA and the Australian Government to ensure appropriate steps were taken to support efforts for Hakeem’s release and we did this privately by lobbying those in positions of influence and ultimately, through the work of many, the right outcome was achieved."
Today though the Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, Amnesty International Australia and Human Rights Watch all called on the FFA to be accountable for its decision.
“Sheikh Salman has been linked to serious human rights abuses in Bahrain, including the imprisonment and torture of Hakeem Al-Araibi, which FIFA has failed to address,” Amnesty International Australia’s Tim O’Connor said.
“The head of the FFA, Chris Nikou must address these concerns and ask serious questions about how they do not breach FFA's own human rights policy.
“Rather than address these issues, they have chosen to prioritise financial growth over standing up for what’s right.”
Fatima Yazbek from the Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights said: “The candidacy of Sheikh Salman to be reelected as AFC President is a breach to the AFC statues itself, as Article 3 clearly states that AFC shall protect and promote all human rights, prohibits and punishes discrimination of any kind.
“Sheikh Salman is convicted of being involved in targeting the Bahraini athletes in 2011, defaming, insulting, and arbitrarily banning them from playing over expressing their political opinions and demanding their rights peacefully. Sheikh Salman failed to protect Hakeem Al-Araibi's human rights when refused to advocate for his release and was involved in targeting Al-Araibi.
“FFA's statement was shocking, that they slammed all the efforts of the Australian community, which advocated for Al-Araibi's freedom, and all the human rights commitments, and chosen to prioritise their own benefits.”