Thai court orders release of refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi

12 February, 2019, 00:55 | Author: Gregory Stephens
  • Craig Foster with Hakeem al Araibi after his arrival in Melbourne

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.

A Thai court approved the request to drop extradition proceedings, according to Chatchom Akapin, director general of Foreign Affairs for the Office of the Attorney General.

In a statement, world players' union FIFPro said it was delighted that Al-Araibi had been released.

The Pascoe Vale FC footballer has been given political asylum in Australia as a refugee since fleeing Bahrain five years ago after he was jailed and tortured for protesting against the Bahrain government.

He was detained upon his arrival in Bangkok in November while on a holiday at the request of Bahrain relayed through Interpol - from the global police body's Australian office.

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. Having been dragged off his flight into detention on arrival on November 27, after a few days of detention at Suvarnabhumi Airport a ticket and a boarding pass was placed in his hands and they were prepared to return to Melbourne.

"We have been informed that Bahrain wants to withdraw the (extradition) request".

He denies the charges and says he was playing in a televised match when the police station attack took place.

Craig Foster has been one of Hakeem al-Araibi’s biggest supporters
Craig Foster has been one of Hakeem al-Araibi’s biggest supporters

Officials in Bahrain, an island kingdom off the coast of Saudi Arabia that's home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, said the country "reaffirms its right to pursue all necessary legal actions against" al-Araibi.

"Many wonderful people stepped forward to help Hakeem, " he wrote Monday in comments on Twitter.

A journalist from the BBC said negotiations between Thailand and Bahrain led to the agreement to drop the extradition request.

"They blindfolded me", he told the Times in 2016.

The state-run Bahrain News Agency reported Sunday that Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa had a phone call with Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, but offered no specifics on their discussions.

The 25-year-old pro-democracy advocate has been sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment in absentia by the Bahrain regime for alleged vandalism but denies any involvement. Her nightmare will shortly be at an end.

Human rights activists in Bahrain have also welcomed the news.

After his arrest in Bahrain, al-Araibi said police tortured him.


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