Thailand drops extradition proceedings against refugee footballer, says prosecutor

Thailand drops extradition proceedings against refugee footballer, says prosecutor

Bangkok, Refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi will not be sent back to Bahrain after Thailand dropped extradition proceedings against him at the Gulf State's request, a prosecutor said Monday. Court spokesman Suriyan Hongvilai said that Hakeem al-Araibi was being processed for release.

Bahraini Hakeem al-Araibiwill fly home to Australia on Monday.

But as footballers and fans say goodbye to Sala, knowing that their generosity and support helped offer closure to his grieving family, they have everything still to do for al-Araibi. He has been living in Melbourne, where he plays for a semi-professional football team.

He was convicted of vandalizing a police station during 2011 anti-government protests in Bahrain and sentenced in absentia after he fled.

In November a year ago, he and his wife flew to Thailand for their honeymoon, believing his Australian visa allowed him to travel safely, but they were detained immediately when they landed at Bangkok's Airport in response to an Interpol "red notice".

New York-based Human Rights Watch has said Araibi was tortured by Bahraini authorities because of his brother's political activities during the 2011 protests.

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Bahrain has a Shia majority but is ruled by a Sunni monarchy. "He is a free man", said Chatchom Akapin, an official in the Thai Attorney-General's office. They doubt Bahrain's statements that he would be fairly treated if returned. There was no global reaction for previous renditions from Thailand of refugees and asylum-seekers to countries where campaigners said they risked ill-treatment.

The Australian government has repeatedly called for Araibi's return and the case has become a cause celebre in the football world, with FIFA also urging the Thai premier to intervene.

Human rights activists in Bahrain have also welcomed the news.

In December, al-Araibi's lawyer in Thailand, Nadthasiri Bergman, said her 25-year-old client was "terrified".

She said she requested his release on bail but it was denied because the court deemed him a flight risk.

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