Fugitive Bahraini footballer to walk free after Bahrain drops extradition request

Craig Foster left and Hakeem Al Araibi at Melbourne Airport Australia on Tuesday

Craig Foster left and Hakeem Al Araibi at Melbourne Airport Australia on Tuesday

Dissident Bahraini soccer player Hakeem al-Araibi, photographed Feb.4 as he left court in Bangkok, was released a week later after prosecutors said they were no longer seeking his extradition to Bahrain.

In a news release on Monday, Bahrain's state news agency said the country's Foreign Ministry took "note of the halt in legal proceedings" to have him extradited.

Director of the department's worldwide affairs section, Chatchom Akapin, said Bahrain had requested the case be dropped.

Court spokesman Suriyan Hongvilai said Al-Araibi, who lives and plays football in Australia, was being processed for release.

Refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi in Bangkok.

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Again, had 25-year-old al-Araibi not been a footballer, his plight likely wouldn't have evoked much of a reaction beyond the human rights groups whose days are filled with such cases.

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.

Bahrain wanted him returned to serve a 10-year prison sentence he received in absentia in 2014 for an arson attack that damaged a police station, which he denies. "They all deserve to be in front of camera now, not only me".

He was detained upon his arrival in Bangkok in November, while on a holiday, at the request of Bahrain relayed through Interpol.

In a statement, world players' union FIFPro said it was delighted that Al-Araibi had been released. Thai officials had said a trial could be lengthy, depending on how many witnesses are called by each side. There was no global reaction for previous renditions from Thailand of refugees and asylum-seekers to countries where campaigners said they risked ill-treatment.

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Morrison said: "Now the next step is for him to return home".

"We would particularly like to thank former Socceroo Craig Foster for his tireless efforts in leading this campaign and we also acknowledge the work of Professional Footballers Australia, Football Victoria and Pascoe Vale FC". "(P) eople everywhere standing up for good, pushing back against regimes who flout worldwide law, for human rights". "It is a commitment enshrined in our human rights policy", he said.

Chatchom added that the process to release Araibi is underway.

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

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