Thailand releases Australia's refugee soccer star

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on February 11, 2019 - Duration: 01:11s

Thailand releases Australia's refugee soccer star

Thailand on Monday freed jailed refugee Bahraini athlete Hakeem Al Araibi, who has residency status in Australia, after Bahrain abandoned its bid to seek his extradition.

Saskia O'Donoghue reports

Thailand releases Australia's refugee soccer star

A pro soccer player in Australia who was detained by Thai authorities at Bahrain's request has been released from prison.

This was the moment Hakeem Al Araibi left jail in Bangkok.

He's originally from Bahrain but took asylum in Australia.

Bahrain put a request to arrest him on his honeymoon through Interpol last November, but has now withdrawn it.

They accused him of committing crimes during the Arab Spring protests of 2011 - specifically vandalizing a police station, which he denies.

And Araibi said he'd face torture if Thai authorities complied with Bahrain's request.

His former captain on Monday: (SOUNDBITE) (English) FORMER AUSTRALIAN SOCCER CAPTAIN CRAIG FOSTER SAYING: "If indeed his feet are on Australian ground tomorrow, then it's going to be a cause for very, very significant celebrations.

As you can see, it's been a very, very intense campaign." It's not clear why Bahrain withdrew their request and Thai authorities did respond to a request for comment.

The Australian government, civil rights groups like Amnesty International, and even FIFA itself had all lobbied for his release.

Human Rights Watch says Arabi was targetted by Bahraini authorities, and tortured, because of his brother's political activities during the Arab Spring.

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