Refugee footballer will not be extradited to Bahrain: Thai prosecutor

Refugee soccer player Bahraini Hakeem al Araibi leaves the criminal court in Bangkok on Feb. 4

Refugee soccer player Bahraini Hakeem al Araibi leaves the criminal court in Bangkok on Feb. 4

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 was seen talking happily as he walked past the gate to board his plane.

The department decided that it would not proceed with the trial against al-Araibi.

It is unclear whether the kingdom is now asking Australia to extradite al-Araibi Bahrain.

But as Natasha Hussain reports, Bahrain still wants to pursue legal action against him.

Campaigners believe the case was bogus and have unearthed footage they say supports his claim that he was playing in a televised match at the time.

The 25-year-old was officially granted Australian refugee status in 2017.

Al-Araibi's lawyer confirmed to SBS News on Monday that his client is to be freed by Thai authorities, having been detained since last November on an Interpol notice issued at the request of Bahrain.

He was detained in November on an Interpol notice requested by Bahrain, after travelling to Thailand on honeymoon.

Bahrain wanted its former national team player to return and serve a 10-year prison sentence that was handed down in absentia after he was accused of vandalising a police station.

"Now the next step is for him to return home", Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

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Mr al-Araibi alleged his criticism of Bahrain royal family member and Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman was one of the reasons he was being persecuted.

His own Australian soccer team Pascoe Vale FC; FIFA, the global soccer federation and the International Olympic Committee were among the organizations calling for his release.

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 previous year - with the hashtag #SaveHakeem.

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

"This is a win for humanity, for the power of citizens of the world demanding that human rights be protected", Foster said in a statement.

Former Socceroos captain Craig Foster, who has been instrumental in the effort to secure al-Araibi's release, tweeted that he'll be in Melbourne to welcome him home.

The refugee footballer was facing the possibility of being sent back to Bahrain - where human rights activists said he would nearly definitely be tortured - after being arrested in Thailand while on his honeymoon.

In addition to thanking Thailand, Morrison said Australians "greatly appreciate their listening to the issues that have been raised by our government and many others who have raised this case".

The shock decision by the Thai government and courts to free him brought to an end Bahrain's attempts to have the dissident and athlete returned to them.

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