Thailand to free Bahraini footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi

Thailand to free Bahraini footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi

Thailand to free Bahraini footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi

Thailand on Monday freed a jailed refugee Bahraini footballer with residency status in Australia, after Bahrain abandoned its bid to seek his extradition, and immigration officials said he was immediately driven to the airport.

Public prosecutor Settha Thianpilakul from the foreign affairs bureau of the Office of the Attorney-General arrived at the court on Ratchadaphisek Road on Monday afternoon to withdraw prosecutors' earlier request for the extradition of the 25-year-old Bahraini footballer.

Bahraini refugee, Hakeem Al-Araibi leaves Thailand's Criminal Court, in Bangkok, Thailand 04 February, 2019.

The detention of Araibi, who appeared with his feet in shackles at a court hearing last week, drew global criticism, with Australian authorities and fellow footballers urging Thailand to release him.

Araibi fled his Gulf Arab homeland in 2014 and received refugee status in Australia but was arrested in November at Bangkok airport while on honeymoon, following an Interpol notice issued at Bahrain's request.

Thailand had come under great pressure from Australia's government, sporting bodies and human rights groups to send al-Araibi back to Australia and not to Bahrain, where he is supposed to serve a prison sentence he says was politically motivated.

"Hakeem al-Araibi has left jail", Mr Morrison said in Canberra.

In 2013, he fled the country while on bail and playing for the national team in Qatar.

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

"They blindfolded me", he told the Times in 2016.

Araibi was released from prison shortly afterward, and Thai officials said he would fly out that night. Bahrain has a Shiite majority but is ruled by a Sunni monarchy.

Sayed Ahmed al-Wadaei, from the London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, said the decision was a huge victory for the human rights movement in Bahrain and the rest of the world.

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

Sounds familiar: Even a Bahrain government-ordered investigation reported deaths from torture in 2011 and said detainees were electrocuted, beaten on the soles of their feet, otherwise abused and reported being squeezed into tiny cells, sexually assaulted and other horrors.

It was still unclear exactly when or why the Thai Government chose to free him.

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