'He is a free man' - Thailand releases refugee footballer after extradition bid

'He is a free man' - Thailand releases refugee footballer after extradition bid

Kerry Wise
February 12, 2019

Thai authorities said they were acting on an Interpol "red notice" that has since been invalidated.

"We have been informed that Bahrain wants to withdraw the (extradition) request. if they don't want him, we have no reason to keep him here", he told AFP.

He had been held awaiting an extradition hearing, with Alaraibi wanted by Bahrain to face outstanding vandalism charges.

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

The player fled Bahrain in 2014 and now plays for semi-professional Melbourne-based club Pascoe Vale.

Chatchom added that the process to release Araibi is underway. Having been dragged off his flight into detention on arrival on November 27, after a few days of detention at Suvarnabhumi Airport a ticket and a boarding pass was placed in his hands and they were prepared to return to Melbourne.

Australia has remained al-Araibi's staunch defender, decrying the legal basis for his arrest and pursuing his release.

In its latest assessment, Human Rights Watch lashed out at Bahrain over its bans on independent media outlets and opposition groups.

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But tonight Thai authorities finally relented after Bahrain apparently dropped their extradition demands and allowed Hakeem to be released.

In November previous year, he and his wife flew to Thailand for their honeymoon, believing his Australian visa allowed him to travel safely, but they were detained immediately when they landed at Bangkok's Airport in response to an Interpol "red notice".

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.

Thailand has been under sustained pressure to release Araibi, a campaign that intensified after the dramatic and widely publicized case of Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun.

Former Australia national team captain Craig Foster, who has been leading the campaign for Mr Araibi's release, praised all those who worked on the campaign. Her nightmare will shortly be at an end.

A report commissioned by Bahrain's own monarch in 2011 found authorities engaged in "a systematic practice of physical and psychological mistreatment, which in many cases amounted to torture, with respect to a large number of detainees in their custody".

Noack reported from Queenstown, New Zealand.