Saturday, 23 February, 2019

Hakeem Al-Araibi To Be Freed After Thai Court Drops Extradition Case

Al-Araibi was convicted to 10 years' jail for his alleged role in a 2012 police station attack Al-Araibi was convicted to 10 years jail for his alleged role in a 2012 police station attack. AAP
Melinda Barton | 11 February, 2019, 12:22

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.

He is wanted for damaging a police station but the former national youth footballer 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's supporters said he should be freed and is protected under his status as a refugee with Australian residency.

Al-Araibi was arrested and detained last November, while on his honeymoon in Thailand at the request of the Bahraini government.

Araibi has said he wants to return to Australia, where he has lived since 2014 and plays for a Melbourne football club.

The footballer had been sentenced to 10 years' jail in absentia by Bahrain for alleged vandalism, but he denies any involvement.

The 25-year-old fears being returned to Bahrain where he believes he could face imprisonment and torture. Thai officials had said a trial could be lengthy, depending on how many witnesses are called by each side.

Federico Addiechi, a representative of Fifa, football's world governing body, attended a Feb 4 hearing and said the organisation would continue to support Mr Araibi.

It was not immediately clear when Bahrain withdrew its extradition request.

"The court will now issue an order to release Mr Hakeem from jail today", said Chatchom, the director-general of the office's global affairs department.