Bahrain refugee footballer free as Thailand drops extradition bid

Bahrain refugee footballer free as Thailand drops extradition bid

On Monday, Thai officials told the BBC they had released al-Araibi because Bahrain was no longer seeking his extradition.

Araibi has refugee status in Australia and is expected to arrive home in Melbourne by Tuesday.

Araibi was released by Thai authorities on Monday evening when Bahrain, his country of birth, requested the Thai attorney-general's office drop a case against him.

The department decided that it would not proceed with the trial against al-Araibi.

"As soon as our son reach (sic) Australia, we call upon the Bahraini authorities, which unlawfully treats Hakeem as a criminal despite his innocence, to drop all the fabricated charges, repeal the court's unfair verdict, acquit and apologise for the physical and psychological repercussion it inflicted upon Hakeem", his family said.

Bahrain's foreign ministry said in a statement that it has taken note of a "halt of legal proceedings" and reaffirmed its right to "pursue all necessary legal actions against him".

"I have had a smile all the time on my face and I can't stop crying - I am just so happy", said the 24-year-old, who does not wish to be named.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had also repeatedly pushed for his release, saying that he had written letters to his Thai counterpart Prayut Chan-O-Cha and stressed "how strongly" Australians feel about Araibi's case.

Al-Araibi was detained in November a year ago over an extradition request from Bahrain upon arriving at Bangkok Airport to start his honeymoon.


Detained Nov. 27 at the start of what was meant to be a honeymoon in Thailand, the former Bahrain national team player is wanted back in the kingdom for an arson attack on a police station in 2012 for which he was sentenced in absentia. However, the 10-year jail sentence on al-Araibi remained in place.

"We are heartened seeing our released son Hakeem Al-Araibi's picture; embracing freedom after more than two months", his mother and siblings said.

The player fled Bahrain in 2014 and now plays for semi-professional Melbourne-based club Pascoe Vale.

"As prime minister, I'm pleased Hakeem is coming home, and I'll be pleased to see him at home when that occurs", Morrison said.

Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had no comment on the case.

Since the arrest of al-Araibi hit global headlines, Canberra has been at the forefront of the demand for his immediate release, arguing that he was a refugee with Australian residency and therefore should not have been arrested to face an extradition trial.

Mr Araibi has said he was blindfolded and had his legs beaten while he was held in Bahrain previously.

Al-Araibi was arrested on 27 November on an erroneously issued Interpol red notice, which should never have been granted to Bahrain under clear Interpol policies created to protect refugees from refoulement.

"We greatly respect the process that [the Thai government] had to work through and we greatly appreciate their listening to the issues", Morrison said on Monday afternoon.

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