Hakeem al-Araibi: Refugee footballer to return to Australia

12 February, 2019, 04:57 | Author: Rachel Logan
  • Detained Bahraini soccer player Hakeem al Araibi arrives at the criminal court in Bangkok Thailand

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.

Al-Araibi is expected to be greeted by a crowd of supporters, including his football team, Pascoe Vale FC upon his return to Melbourne on Tuesday afternoon.

Bahraini footballer Hakeem al-Araibi, who was facing an extradition trial in Bangkok since his detention in November past year, was heading back to Australia last night after the Bahraini authorities chose to withdraw their extradition request.

Following the development, his office resolved in a meeting that it would not proceed with the trial against al-Araibi.

Authorities in Bahrain, which has accused Araibi of crimes committed during the Arab Spring protests of 2011, said the country reaffirmed its right to pursue legal action against him, however. He has denied those charges and says the case is politically motivated.

The 25-year-old was seen chatting happily before boarding the flight that was due to leave shortly after midnight, Reuters reported.

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison has welcomed Mr al-Araibi's release, and thanked the Thai Government.

The Thai Attorney General's International Affairs Department said yesterday that the Foreign Ministry had said that Bahrain wanted to withdraw the extradition request.

He was detained in Bangkok in November on an Interpol notice requested by Bahrain.

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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. They were visiting Bangkok for a honeymoon trip on November 27 when al-Araibi was arrested following an Interpol red notice initiated and then later cancelled by the Australian Interpol police.

"He is on his way to the airport, the next step is for him to return home".

Australian Prime Minister praised the decision and said late Monday that al-Araibi was on his way to the airport.

"This is a significant win for humanity, people everywhere standing up for good, pushing back against regimes who flout global law, for human rights", Foster said.

Support for the young footballer's release was galvanised by former Socceroo Craig Foster with FIFA, the International Olympic Committee, and high-profile players calling for Thailand to free him.

"They held me really tight, and one started to beat my legs really hard, saying: 'You will not play soccer again".

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.

"We greatly respect the process that they have had to work through and we greatly appreciate their listening to the issues that have been raised by our government and many others", he told a news conference.

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