Published: Mon, February 11, 2019
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

Thailand to free refugee Bahraini footballer after extradition bid dropped

Thailand to free refugee Bahraini footballer after extradition bid dropped

Chatchom Akapin, the department's director of worldwide affairs, said the decision was made under Section 21 of the Prosecution Act which allows for cases to be dropped if they are not in the public interest.

But Araibi says the case is bogus and tied to his criticism of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, a member of Bahrain's ruling family.

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

Officials in Bahrain, an island kingdom off the coast of Saudi Arabia that's home to the US Navy's 5th Fleet, did not immediately respond to calls and emails seeking comment Monday.

Hakeem Al Araibi, 25, who fled Bahrain in 2014 and received refugee status in Australia, was arrested in November at a Bangkok airport while on a honeymoon trip following an Interpol notice issued at Bahrain's request.

The news will delight Al-Araibi and his supporters, who have launched a global campaign calling for his release.

He was later sentenced in absentia to 10 years in jail over an act of vandalism he maintains he could not have committed because he was playing in a televised football match. He said he believed he was targeted for arrest because of his Shiite faith and because his brother was politically active in Bahrain.

On Monday evening, Foster tweeted his thanks to Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his Government.

A Thai court had earlier ruled that Mr Al-Araibi would remain in prison until his next court hearing on April 22.

"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. The refugee footballer will be returned to Australia after months of pressure from rights groups, former Socceroos, the Australian government and even the heroes of the Thai cave rescue.

Nadthasiri Bergman, Mr Araibi's lawyer, said the court had given her 60 days to submit the defence's case.

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