Hakeem al-Araibi: Thailand to free refugee footballer

Sergio Conner
February 11, 2019

Al-Araibi was originally wanted by Bahrain over the vandalising of a police station in 2012.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed on Monday night that, as of 9pm, al-Araibi had been freed from prison and was on his way to the airport to travel back to Australia.

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

Araibi, a former Bahraini national youth team player, was granted refugee status in Australia after fleeing charges in the oil-rich kingdom connected to Arab Spring protests.

He was detained upon his arrival in Bangkok in November while on a holiday at the request of Bahrain relayed through Interpol.

The footballer had been sentenced to 10 years' jail in absentia by Bahrain for alleged vandalism, but he denies any involvement. He was detained upon his arrival in Bangkok in November while on a holiday at the request of Bahrain relayed through Interpol - from the worldwide police body's Australian office.

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

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When it ended, both moved to the center of the ring and went to their knees and bowed their heads in a show of respect. The Aussie champ was diagnosed with a hernia, underwent emergency surgery and is now recovering, according to White.

The pity is, the past two months of detention and fears he would be tortured on return to Bahrain could have all been avoided.

Former Socceroo Craig Foster tweeted, "thanks go to the wonderful people of Thailand for your support and to Thai Government for upholding worldwide law".

The Bangkok court previously set an April 22 date for the next hearing.

The Australian government has repeatedly called for Araibi's return and the case has become a cause celebre in the football world, with FIFA also urging the Thai premier to intervene.

It was not immediately clear when Bahrain withdrew its extradition request.

He said Federation Internationale de Football Association has not discussed imposing sanctions on either Bahrain or Thailand over the case.

Al-Araibi has said he was blindfolded and had his legs beaten while he was held in Bahrain previously. She said "a great deal" of work had gone on behind the scenes.

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