Thailand to free refugee Bahraini footballer after extradition bid dropped
Thailand has decided to free a jailed Bahraini footballer with Australian residency after Manama dropped a request for his extradition, a prosecutor in the case says.
Hakeem al-Araibi, 25, was arrested more than two months ago at a Bangkok airport while on a honeymoon trip following an Interpol notice issued at Bahrain’s request.
Araibi has been sentenced in his country of birth, Bahrain, to 10 years in jail for charges related to the 2011 uprising against the ruling Al Khalifah regime.
However, Chatchom Akapin, an official in the Thai Attorney-General's office, said the footballer will be freed by the end of Monday.
Apparently, Bahrain has withdrawn the extradition request for Araibi, leading a Thai court to approve a motion by prosecutors to drop the case against the footballer, the official said.
“The court will now issue an order to release Mr. Hakeem from jail today,” said Chatchom, the director-general of the office’s international affairs department. “There are no grounds to hold him anymore. It is his right to decide where he will go next. He is a free man.”
Araibi has said he wants to return to Australia, where he has lived since 2014 and plays for a Melbourne football club.
He was charged with vandalizing a police station during the 2011 anti-government protests in Bahrain and sentenced in absentia after he fled. Araibi denies the charges, saying he was playing in a televised soccer match at the time of the attack.
New York-based Human Rights Watch has confirmed that Araibi was tortured by Bahraini authorities, who are notorious for their human rights abuses.