Saudi Arabia denies requesting extradition of woman in Thailand: embassy

Saudi Arabia denies requesting extradition of woman in Thailand: embassy

Saudi Arabia denies requesting extradition of woman in Thailand: embassy

In a short press release distributed to media outside their embassy in Bangkok on January 8, the Saudi government said it had not demanded her deportation, adding the case is a "family affair", but under the "care and attention" of the embassy.

Friends of Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed Mutlaq Alqunun, 18, claim she was nearly forced onto a flight from Thailand back to Kuwait despite seeking asylum in Australia.

She said she feared her family would kill her for renouncing Islam.

But she was stopped en route by authorities in Thailand at the request of the Saudi government, which demanded the woman return to her family.

"My life is in danger", Ms Mohammed al-Qunun told Reuters news agency.

"They will kill me", she said.

After a lengthy stand-off, Alqunun's claim for protection is being processed by the UNHCR in Thailand where she is staying under the organisation's protection.

Human Rights Watch Asia division deputy director Phil Robertson said the organisation was trying to lodge an asylum claim with the UNHCR.

Surachate Hakparn, the chief of immigration police, told reporters: "The flight this morning was via Kuwait Airlines to send her back to Saudi Arabia". "We understand she has a visa and needs emergency travel documents to be brought safely here", she said in a statement. Alqunan says she is fleeing abuse by her family and wants asylum in Australia. "Thailand is a land of smiles. We will not send anyone to die", he added.

Mr Surachate said he would meet Saudi diplomats on Tuesday to clarify Thailand's decision.

UNHCR has been following developments closely and immediately sought access from the Thai authorities to meet with Ms. Mohammed Al-qunun, 18, to assess her need for worldwide protection.

How did the stand-off start?

The Saudi Arabia's Embassy here sought to clarify the issue of the Saudi girl who had fled her family to Thailand and was stopped at the airport on Sunday. Rahaf claimed to have a visa for Australia and planned to apply for asylum, according to the Associated Press.

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She said: "My parents have just arrived, I'm scared, and I want to go to another country, but I'm safe now under the protection of Thai authorities and the United Nations".

The flight that was to have removed a distressed Saudi teenager attempting to seek asylum in Australia has left Bangkok airport without her. Alqunun posted videos on her Twitter page and also connected with organizations trying to help. She also gave a friend, Noura, access to her Twitter account, saying it was in case anything should happen to her.

That's when the teen took to social media.

Under the hashtag #SaveRahaf, the young woman's desperate pleas became a social media sensation, where she was able to post live updates and videos from the Bangkok airport in both Arabic and English, racking up more than 80,000 followers.

This doesn't mean she's being granted asylum.

Why are there fears for her welfare?

"My brothers and family and the Saudi Embassy will be waiting for me in Kuwait", she told Reuters.

But he denied that her passport had been seized nor that embassy officials were present inside the airport.

Noura believed Ms Mohammed al-Qunun's father works for the Saudi government.

According to al-Qunun, her family had beaten her frequently, and one time kept her locked in a room for six months because they did not approve of the way she had cut her hair.

Qunun, however, told AFP that she was only travelling in the Gulf state.

"She is terrified", she said.

"She will not be sent to a third country because we don't have the authority to do so".

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