Hakeem al-Araibi: Refugee footballer to return to Australia


Before the soccer player's release, Thailand's Foreign Ministry last week released a defensive statement in which it claimed that Thai authorities "would not have become involved in the issue had we not received the red notice alert from the Australian Interpol and the subsequent formal request by Bahrain for his arrest and extradition". My thoughts are with Hakeem's wife.

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

Sayed Ahmed al-Wadaei, from the London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, said the decision was a huge victory for the human rights movement in Bahrain and the rest of the world.

"I prayed and prayed that he would come back to me, and finally our nightmare is ending", she said.

Pressure had been intensifying on both the Bahraini and Thai governments to drop the extradition case, especially after videos of Araibi walking in shackles were circulated on social media. Again, no specifics on their talks was offered.

He fled Bahrain while playing for the national team in Qatar in 2013 before making his way to Australia via Iran, Malaysia and Thailand, and seeking asylum in 2014.

He was arrested by Thai authorities on November 27 a year ago on an Interpol notice that was distributed against the organisation's own policies to not flag against refugees from the country they have fleed. The Shiite Muslim said he was targeted for his faith and because he had run afoul of Bahrain's ruling Sunni family owing to his brother's political activism.

Thailand's Office of the Attorney General (OAG) asked the court to end proceedings against Al-Araibi because Bahrain had said it no longer wanted him, officials told BBC Thai on Monday.

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The Bahraini government had insisted that he should be treated as a simple fugitive and will have an opportunity to appeal his conviction in the country's courts.

"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.

He had faced at least another two months in jail after a court in Bangkok last week set down his pre-trial extradition hearing for April 22.

Araibi was released from prison shortly afterward, and Thai officials said he would fly out that night.

She said she requested his release on bail but it was denied because the court deemed him a flight risk. Bilateral ties dived to a point where even Australia's sporting organisations boycotted Thailand, including cancelling a football friendly scheduled to be held here in March, in protest over the detention.

"This is a win for humanity, for the power of citizens of the world demanding that human rights be protected", Foster said in a statement. "(P) eople everywhere standing up for good, pushing back against regimes who flout global law, for human rights".

Nadthasiri Bergman, Mr Araibi's lawyer, said the court had given her 60 days to submit the defence's case.