Warm welcome for freed Bahraini soccer player

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published 1 week ago - Duration: 01:08s

Warm welcome for freed Bahraini soccer player

A refugee Bahraini footballer, who was held in a Thai prison for more than two months at the Gulf state's request, arrived back in his adoptive hometown of Melbourne on Tuesday.

Michelle Hennessy reports.

Warm welcome for freed Bahraini soccer player

(SOUNDBITE) (English) CROWD, YELLING: "Welcome home Hakeem!" Hundreds of supporters welcomed refugee soccer player Hakeem Al Araibi home to Melbourne on Tuesday (February 12).

The Bahraini national had been held in a Thai prison for more than two months, after he was arrested during his honeymoon in Bangkok, at the request of Bahrain.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) REFUGEE FOOTBALLER HAKEEM AL ARAIBI, SAYING: "Australia, this is my country.

I didn't citizenship yet, but my country is Australia.

I will die in Australia and I love Australia." He was released from prison on Monday (February 11).

Bahrain accuses him of crimes committed during the 2011 Arab Spring - charges he denies.

The 25 year-old fled Bahrain in 2014 and received refugee status in Australia.

The Australian government, civil rights groups, and even FIFA itself - all lobbied for his release.

Human Rights Watch says Araibi was targeted and tortured by Bahraini authorities, because of his brother's political activities during the uprising.

Bahrain denies those allegations - and after coming under heavy diplomatic pressure, and public outrage, the Gulf state agreed to drop its bid to have him extradited.

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