Tuesday, 18 June, 2019

Fugitive Bahraini footballer to walk free after Bahrain drops extradition request

Hakeem al Araibi is greeted by friends and supporters as he arrives in Melbourne JOE ARMAO SYDNEY MORNING HERALDHakeem al Araibi is greeted by friends and supporters as he arrives in Melbourne
Patty Aguilar | 11 February, 2019, 13:38

Refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi will not be sent back to Bahrain after Thailand dropped extradition proceedings against him on the Gulf State's request, a prosecutor said Monday.

He said the extradition case against Mr Al-Araibi, who was wanted by Bahrain over the vandalising of a police station in 2012, was dropped by the Criminal Court on Monday afternoon.

Mr Araibi was reportedly freed at 3.55pm on Monday and was expected to return to Australia on Monday night.

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.

Former Socceroo Craig Foster tweeted, "thanks go to the wonderful people of Thailand for your support and to Thai Government for upholding worldwide law". He has been living in Melbourne, where he plays for a semi-professional soccer team.

Mr Al-Araibi was detained at Bangkok airport on November 27 when he arrived in Thailand for his honeymoon with his wife.

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

Bahrain has a Shia majority but is ruled by a Sunni monarchy.

Campaigners believe the case was bogus and have unearthed footage they say supports his claim that he was playing in a televised match at the time.

The surprise decision on Monday ends more than 70 days of detention and global outcry over Bahrain's attempts to return the 25-year-old dissident refugee.

A court filing from Thai prosecutors had noted that while Thailand and Bahrain do not have an extradition treaty, extradition is still possible by law if Bahrain makes an official request - which it did - and if the crime is punishable by more than a year's imprisonment and is not politically motivated or a military violation.

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. "It is a commitment enshrined in our human rights policy", he said. She said "a great deal" of work had gone on behind the scenes.

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