Footballer Hakeem al-Araibi’s Ordeal Ends, Won’t Be Extradited
Bahraini football player Hakeem al-Araibi left from the criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand, Bangkok, Thailand, Monday, Feb. 4, 2019. 
Bahraini football player Hakeem al-Araibi left from the criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand, Bangkok, Thailand, Monday, Feb. 4, 2019. (Photo: AP)

Footballer Hakeem al-Araibi’s Ordeal Ends, Won’t Be Extradited

A Thai court ordered the release of refugee soccer player Hakeem al-Araibi on Monday after prosecutors said they were no longer seeking his extradition to Bahrain in a case that had drawn worldwide attention.

Court spokesman Suriyan Hongvilai said that al-Araibi was being processed for release.

Thailand had come under great pressure from Australia's government, sporting bodies and human rights groups to send al-Araibi back to Australia, where he has refugee status and plays semi-professional soccer.

Prosecutors on Monday submitted to court a request to withdraw the case to extradite al-Araibi to Bahrain, where he faces a 10-year prison sentence for an arson attack that damaged a police station. He has denied those charges and says the case is politically motivated.

Prosecutors made the decision after Thailand's foreign ministry sent their department a letter Monday morning that indicated that Bahrain had withdrawn its request for al-Araibi, said Chatchom Akapin, the director general of the attorney general office's international affairs department.

Al-Araibi, 25, a former Bahraini national team player, has said he fled his home country due to political repression. He has been living in Melbourne, where he plays for a semi-professional soccer team.

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His supporters had said he should be freed and is protected under his status as a refugee with Australian residency. He was detained at the request of Bahrain relayed through Interpol upon his arrival in Bangkok in November while on honeymoon with his wife.

Al-Araibi, a former player on Bahrain's national team, says he fled Bahrain due to political repression and that he fears torture if he returns.

He has said he was blindfolded and had his legs beaten while he was held in Bahrain previously. He said he believed he was targeted for arrest because of his Shiite faith and because his brother was politically active in Bahrain. Bahrain has a Shiite majority but is ruled by a Sunni monarchy.

Former Australia national team captain Craig Foster, who has been leading the campaign for al-Araibi's release, praised all those who worked on the campaign.

"Many wonderful people stepped forward to help Hakeem," he wrote Monday in comments on Twitter. "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."

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