Refugee footballer freed after Bahrain drops extradition

Frederick Owens
February 11, 2019

Al-Araibi, who fled Bahrain in 2014 before being granted permanent residence in Australia, was arrested while on honeymoon in Bangkok in November.

The Criminal Court has freed refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi after Bahrain dropped its extradition request, a public prosecutor said on Monday, following a global outcry over the risks he faced if sent back home.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had also repeatedly pushed for his release, saying that he had written letters to his Thai counterpart Prayut Chan-O-Cha and stressed "how strongly Australians feel about this".

Bahrain wanted its former national team player to return and serve a 10-year prison sentence that was handed down in absentia after he was accused of vandalising a police station.

Al-Araibi plays for Pascoe Vale FC in Melbourne.

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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.

"This morning the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed us that Bahrain was no longer interested in this request", OAG foreign office chief Chatchom Akapin said.

Morrison said he was "pleased" with the outcome and thanked the Thai government, as well as Australian football identity Craig Foster for his advocacy on the case.

"The court will now issue an order to release Mr Hakeem from jail today", said Chatchom, the director-general of the office's worldwide affairs department.

Federico Addiechi, a representative of Fifa, football's world governing body, attended a Feb 4 hearing and said the organisation would continue to support Mr Araibi. He says he faces torture if returned to Bahrain. She said "a great deal" of work had gone on behind the scenes.

Other reports by LeisureTravelAid

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