Bahrain drops extradition request for "terrified" refugee soccer player Hakeem al-Araibi
- Author: Sonia Alvarado Feb 12, 2019,
Feb 12, 2019, 0:54
A Thai court has ruled that an extradition case against Melbourne-based refugee Hakeem al-Araibi be dropped, with the footballer expected to return to Australia tonight.
"We have been informed that Bahrain wants to withdraw the (extradition) request".
That is partly because al-Araibi says he was tortured in custody before he fled Bahrain, telling The New York Times in 2016 that an officer "beat my legs really hard, saying: 'You will not play soccer again".
Al-Araibi fled Bahrain in 2014 before being granted permanent residence in Australia.Bahrain had issued a request for his arrest on the grounds of an act of vandalism al-Araibi maintains he did not commit, as he was playing a soccer game at the time of the alleged incident.
Mr Al-Araibi had been held at the Bangkok Remand Prison for two months after Bahrain said it would proceed with the extradition.
The state-run Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported on Sunday that Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa had a phone call with Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, but offered no details of their discussions.
The player's Australia lawyer Latifa Al-Haouli of Sabelberg Morcos Lawyers, told SBS News on Monday legal staff were working with Thailand's department of corrections to secure Mr Al-Araibi's return to Australia.
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After his arrest in Bahrain, al-Araibi said police tortured him. "They all deserve to be in front of camera now, not only me".
On November 27, al-Araibi was anticipating celebrating his honeymoon when he touched down in Bangkok with his wife. "He is a free man", said Chatchom Akapin, an official in the Thai Attorney-General's office.
Authorities in Bahrain, which has accused Araibi of crimes committed during the Arab Spring protests of 2011, said the country reaffirmed its right to pursue legal action against him, however. There was no global reaction for previous renditions from Thailand of refugees and asylum-seekers to countries where campaigners said they risked ill-treatment.
"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". "It is a commitment enshrined in our human rights policy", he said.
Araibi was released from prison shortly afterward, and Thai officials said he would fly out that night.
Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had no comment on the case.