Bahrain refugee footballer free as Thailand drops extradition bid

Geraldine Edwards
February 12, 2019

A Thai court has ordered the release of refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi after prosecutors said they were no longer seeking his extradition to Bahrain. That was after Bahrain withdrew its request to have him extradited on an global arrest warrant.

Bahraini Hakeem al-Araibiwill fly home to Australia on Monday.

However, authorities in Bahrain, which has accused Araibi of crimes committed during the Arab Spring protests of 2011, also reaffirmed their right to pursue legal action against him.

He has denied the charge and said the case, which has attracted worldwide attention, is politically motivated.

The pro-democracy advocate had been sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment in absentia by the Bahrain regime for alleged vandalism but denied any involvement.

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Hakeen al-Araibi, 25, who had been living as a refugee in Australia with permanent resident status will return there, the country's prime minister, Scott Morrison, said. I can't list them, but will thank each of them in time.

'The court will now issue an order to release Mr Hakeem from jail today, ' said Chatchom, the director-general of the office's worldwide affairs department.

Al-Araibi was arrested at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport on November 27 when he was reportedly on en route to Australia, where he had been granted residency four years ago.

Separately, BNA said Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa met Sunday with Thailand's foreign minister who was visiting the island.

"He is on his way to the airport, the next step is for him to return home". He believed he was targeted because of his Shiite faith and because his brother was politically active in Bahrain, which has a Shiite majority but is ruled by a Sunni monarchy.

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Al-Araibi was originally arrested in 2012.

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

Alqunun fled her family to Bangkok while on holiday in Kuwait but was detained by authorities shortly after arrival.

"Hakeem al-Araibi has left jail", Mr Morrison said in Canberra.

Al-Araibi has said he was blindfolded and had his legs beaten when he was held in Bahrain previously. "The Bahraini authorities have demonstrated a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to free media, independent political thought, and peaceful dissent", Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, was quoted as saying in January.

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It was still unclear exactly when or why the Thai Government made a decision to free him.

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