Bahrain Withdraws Hakeem Al-Araibi’s Extradition Request
A refugee footballer’s release was ordered in a Thai court on Monday after prosecutors said they were no longer seeking his extradition to Bahrain in a case that has the world’s attention. The court spokesperson Suriyan Hongvilai told media that the release of Hakeem al-Araibi has been processed.
The Australian government, sporting bodies and human rights groups called out to Thailand to send al-Araibi back to Australia, where he has a refugee status and plies his trade as a semi-professional footballer. This had put the Thai government under immense pressure.
On Monday, prosecutors submitted a request to withdraw the case to court to extradite Hakeem al-Araibi to Bahrain, where he faces a 10-year prison sentence for an arson attack that left a police station damaged. He has since denied the charges, claiming the case is masterminded politically.
Following the letter sent by the Thailand’s foreign ministry to the department of the prosecutors on Monday morning, the prosecutors decided to withdraw the case. The letter indicated that Bahrain had withdrawn their request for al-Araibi, according to Chatchom Akapin, the director general of the attorney general’s office, international affairs department.
The Bahrain News Agency (BNA), a state-run agency, reported that Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa had a telephonic converation with the Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, but no details of the conversation were released.
Al-Araibi, is a former Bahrain National Team player. He said he fled his home country because of political repression to settle in Melbourne, Australia, where he currently plays for a semi-professional football team.
His supporters had called for his freedom, stating that he is protected under his status as a refugee with Australian residency. Hakeem al-Araibi was detained at the request of Bahrain passed though Interpol when he came to Bangkok back in November on honeymoon with his wife.
Activists have heaped praises on Monday’s developments.
“This is a huge victory for the human rights movement in Bahrain, Thailand and Australia — and even the whole world,” said Sayed Alwadaei, the Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy. “Hakeem’s ordeal ended after 70 days when there was a clear public stance and solidarity movement.”
Craig Foster, the former Australian National Team captain, one of those leading the campaign for the release of al-Araibi’s release, heaped praise on everyone who worked on the campaign.
While expressing his delight on twitter, he wrote: “Many wonderful people stepped forward to help Hakeem. They all deserve to be in front of camera now, not only me. I can’t list them, but will thank each of them in time. My thoughts are with Hakeem’s wife. Her nightmare will shortly be at an end. Our prayers answered.” Hakeem al-Araibi, 25, has expressed fears of torture if he returns to Bahrain, his home country.
“He doesn’t want to be extradited, obviously. He was very strong that he wants to go back to Australia from the beginning,” Nadthasiri Bergman, al-Araibi’s lawyer in Thailand said.
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