Hakeem Al-Araibi to be released by Thailand court

Erika Holt
February 12, 2019

Former Australia captain Craig Foster has campaigned stridently for Al-Araibi's release and said his family had shed tears of joy at the news. Thai authorities said they were acting on an Interpol "red notice" that has since been invalidated.

"We trust Hakeem can now live in peace in Australia and, as a protected refugee, regain his lawful right to travel without fear", the statement said.

A Thai court ordered the release of a refugee soccer player on Monday after prosecutors said they were no longer seeking his extradition to Bahrain in a case that had drawn worldwide attention.

Court spokesman Suriyan Hongvilai said Monday that Hakeem al-Araibi was now being processed for release.

Bahraini Hakeem al-Araibiwill fly home to Australia on Monday.

She said she requested his release on bail but it was denied because the court deemed him a flight risk. He has been living in Melbourne, where he plays for a semi-professional soccer team.

He was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison and left for Australia.

Al-Araibi fled Bahrain, seeking asylum in Australia.

"We had a phone call from the Foreign Affairs Ministry this morning and they said Bahrain doesn't want him anymore", Chatchom said.

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Human rights activists in Bahrain have also welcomed the news.

It still remains unclear when Bahrain withdrew its extradition request. "It is a commitment enshrined in our human rights policy", he said.

In its latest assessment, Human Rights Watch lashed out at Bahrain over its bans on independent media outlets and opposition groups. Bahraini authorities deny allegations of torture.

He was detained in Bangkok in November on an Interpol notice requested by Bahrain.

A Reuters witness said Araibi was seen leaving the Bangkok remand prison in a vehicle and immigration officials said he was heading for the main global airport in the Thai capital.

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. Her nightmare will shortly be at an end. Araibi had said he faced torture if returned to Bahrain.

A similar campaign was launched on behalf of Araibi by human rights groups, fellow soccer players and other activists - including the heroes who helped save a Thai soccer team trapped in a cave past year - with the hashtag #SaveHakeem.

Noack reported from Queenstown, New Zealand.

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