Thailand to free Bahraini refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi

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Thailand will free a refugee Bahraini footballer, arrested more than two months ago after Bahrain abandoned its bid to seek his extradition, a prosecutor in the case has said.

Monday’s decision comes after the 25-year-old footballer Hakeem al-Araibi was jailed for weeks in Bangkok’s Klong Prem Remand Prison.

Bahrain wanted him returned to serve a 10-year prison sentence he received in absentia in 2014 for an arson attack that damaged a police station. Al-Araibi denies those charges.


“Please don’t send me to Bahrain,” the footballer was heard shouting while walking barefoot towards Thailand’s criminal court on February 4 to fight back Bahrain’s request of extradition.

Al-Araibi, who fled Bahrain in 2014 and received refugee status in Australia, was arrested in November at a Bangkok airport while on his honeymoon following an Interpol notice issued at Bahrain’s request.

However, Bahrain’s withdrawal of the request led a Thai court to approve a motion by prosecutors to drop the case against the footballer, said Chatchom Akapin, an official in the Thai attorney general’s office.

“The court will now issue an order to release Mr Hakeem from jail today,” said Chatchom, the director-general of the international affairs department.

“There are no grounds to hold him any more. It is his right to decide where he will go next. He is a free man.”

It was not immediately clear when Bahrain withdrew its extradition request. Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had no comment to offer on the case.

“This is a huge victory for the human rights movement in Bahrain, Thailand and Australia, and even the whole world,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.

“Hakeem’s ordeal ended after 70 days when there was a clear public stance and solidarity movement. The football community, the human-rights movement and all of those who dedicated their time and efforts to end this injustice were rewarded.

“Let’s continue the fight to release all political prisoners who languish in Bahrain’s prisons.”

Al-Araibi, who played for the Bahrain national team, joined Pasco Vale, a Melbourne-based semi-professional club, after Australia granted him refugee status in 2017.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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