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Thailand to free refugee Bahraini footballer after extradition bid dropped

11 February 2019

Bahrain has now dropped an extradition request made to Thailand, paving the way for Al-Araibi to return to Australia.

Hakeem Al Araibi, who fled Bahrain in 2014, was arrested in Bangkok at Bahrain's request. He has been living in Melbourne, where he plays for a semi-professional soccer team.

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 said he believed he was targeted for arrest because of his Shiite faith and because his brother was politically active in Bahrain.

Since then, he has been detained in a Bangkok prison pending a court ruling over the extradition request from the Bahraini government - a move the footballer has pleaded against as he fears torture if returned.

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"Thanks go to the wonderful people of Thailand for your support and to Thai Government for upholding worldwide law", Foster said.

Foreign minister Marise Payne said there were still "a number of steps to go in this process" but said al-Araibi would hopefully be back in Australia in the next day or so.

Federico Addiechi, a representative of Fifa, football's world governing body, attended a Feb 4 hearing and said the organisation would continue to support Mr Araibi. She said "a great deal" of work had gone on behind the scenes.

"We had a phone call from the Foreign Affairs Ministry this morning and they said Bahrain doesn't want him anymore", Chatchom told BBC.

Thailand to free refugee Bahraini footballer after extradition bid dropped