Hakeem al-Araibi: Thailand to free refugee footballer

by Garry Watts February 12, 2019, 0:55
Hakeem al-Araibi: Thailand to free refugee footballer

Dissident Bahraini soccer player Hakeem al-Araibi, photographed Feb.4 as he left court in Bangkok, was released a week later after prosecutors said they were no longer seeking his extradition to Bahrain.

"He is a free man", Chatchom Akapin, an official in the Thai Attorney-General's office, said on Monday after Bahrain withdrew its extradition request without explanation.

Foreign minister Marise Payne said there were still "a number of steps to go in this process" but said al-Araibi would hopefully be back in Australia in the next day or so.

The player's Australia lawyer Latifa Al-Haouli of Sabelberg Morcos Lawyers, told SBS News on Monday legal staff were working with Thailand's department of corrections to secure Mr Al-Araibi's return to Australia.

On November 27, al-Araibi was anticipating celebrating his honeymoon when he touched down in Bangkok with his wife.

Australia's prime minister has thanked Thailand for its decision to no longer seek the extradition to Bahrain of a refugee soccer player who lives in Melbourne.

A jubilant Hakeem al Araibi walks out of Melbourne Airport alongside former Socceroos captain Craig Foster
JOE ARMAO SYDNEY MORNING HERALDA jubilant Hakeem al Araibi walks out of Melbourne Airport alongside former Socceroos captain Craig Foster

Former Socceroos captain Craig Foster has built a global coalition of sporting bodies and stars - from both within football and the wider sports community - to call for Hakeem's release and pressure Thailand to return him to Australia.

She said she requested his release on bail but it was denied because the court deemed him a flight risk. He has denied those charges and says the case is politically motivated. But the agency also wrote that the "guilty verdict against Mr.al-Araibi remains in place" and that the "Kingdom of Bahrain reaffirms its right to pursue all necessary legal actions against Mr.al-Araibi".

On Monday evening, Foster tweeted his thanks to Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his Government.

On Monday, prosecutors submitted to court a request to withdraw the case to extradite Al-Araibi to Bahrain, where he faces a 10-year prison sentence for an arson attack that damaged a police station. "(P) eople everywhere standing up for good, pushing back against regimes who flout worldwide law, for human rights".

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

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei of the London-based campaign group the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy said: "This is a huge victory for the human rights movement in Bahrain, Thailand and Australia, and even the whole world".

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