A Thai court has ruled that an extradition case against Melbourne-based refugee Hakeem al-Araibi be dropped, with the footballer to return to Australia tonight.
- Hakeem al-Araibi was detained after flying to Bangkok for his honeymoon in November
- He was jailed over allegations he vandalised a police station in Bahrain during the Arab Spring
- Former Socceroo Craig Foster led the campaign to free the 25-year-old footballer
The director-general of international affairs for the Thai Government confirmed to the ABC that the Attorney-General requested the case for Mr al-Araibi’s extradition to Bahrain be dropped.
The 25-year-old was detained in Bangkok more than two months ago for alleged vandalism offences in his native Bahrain.
A Bahraini court sentenced him in absentia to 10 years in prison over claims by Bahraini authorities that he and a group of protesters attacked a police station with petrol bombs during the Arab Spring uprising.
He denied the allegations and said he was tortured by his captors during his detention before fleeing to Iran when he was allowed to travel to Qatar for a football match.
He eventually made it to Australia, where he was granted refugee status and plays semi-professional football for Pascoe Vale.
In November last year, he and his wife flew to Thailand for their honeymoon, believing his Australian visa allowed him to travel safely, but they were detained immediately when they landed at Bangkok’s Airport in response to an Interpol “red notice”.
Last week he told the ABC he was “very scared” of being sent back to Bahrain, saying he had been unfairly targeted because he criticised the country’s rulers.
‘Our prayers answered’
Former Socceroos captain and prominent broadcaster Craig Foster was the public face of the campaign to have Mr al-Araibi freed, which had the backing of the Australian Government.
Late last month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison wrote to his Thai counterpart, Prayut Chan-o-cha, calling for the Melburnian’s release.
On Monday evening, Foster tweeted his thanks to Mr Chan-o-cha and his Government for dropping the extradition case.
Craig Foster tweet: We understand that @prayutofficial Govt and court has ruled to release Hakeem. My thanks go to the wonderful people of Thailand for your support and to Thai Govt for upholding international law. My deepest gratitude. Also to everyone who stood for what’s right
“Most important thing now is Hakeem’s immediate wellbeing,” Foster tweeted.
“Sure Embassy staff will take care of him, there’ll be tears there tonight, as there are in our household right now.
“Going to take some moments to thank as many of the incredible people involved as possible.
“Many wonderful people stepped forward to help Hakeem. They all deserve to be in front of camera now, not only me. I can’t list them, but will thank each of them in time.
“My thoughts are with Hakeem’s wife. Her nightmare will shortly be at an end. Our prayers answered #HakeemHome”
Earlier on Monday, Mr Morrison preached patience in the quest to get Mr al-Araibi home, because it was “not a straight-up-and-down issue”.
“The only thing I’m concerned about right now is getting him home,” he said at the National Press Club.
“I want to get Hakeem al-Araibi home.
“I know that Marise Payne has been working with her consulate and others from DFAT. And our Australians of the year, the international sports community and others have been making this case.
“It’s not my job to get upset — it’s my job to get him home.”