Hakeem Al-Araibi To Be Freed After Thai Court Drops Extradition Case

A refugee Bahraini footballer with residency status in Australia boarded a flight for Melbourne early on Tuesday after Bahrain dropped its bid to have him extradited from Thailand, bringing to an end a case that had drawn global criticism.

"This morning the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed us that Bahrain was no longer interested in this request", OAG foreign office chief Chatchom Akapin said.

Director of the department's worldwide affairs section, Chatchom Akapin, said Bahrain had requested the case be dropped.

Al-Araibi, a refugee who lives and plays for Melbourne-based Pascoe Vale in Australia, has been held in Thailand since November at the request of Bahrain after being arrested in Bangkok while on honeymoon.

He is wanted for damaging a police station but the former national youth footballer says the case is bogus and tied to his criticism of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, a member of Bahrain's ruling family.

He denied the allegations and said he was tortured by his captors during his detention before fleeing to Iran when he was allowed to travel to Qatar for a football match.

In the Australian capital of Canberra, Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed the decision of the Thai government.

Al-Araibi, 25, a former Bahraini national team player, says he fled Bahrain due to political repression and that he fears torture if he returns.

He was detained upon his arrival in Bangkok in November while on a holiday at the request of Bahrain relayed through Interpol - from the worldwide police body's Australian office. "They all deserve to be in front of camera now, not only me".

He appeared in court last week, led into the courthouse in shackles, and was remanded in custody for another 10 weeks until April 22.

A court filing from Thai prosecutors had noted that while Thailand and Bahrain do not have an extradition treaty, extradition is still possible by law if Bahrain makes an official request - which it did - and if the crime is punishable by more than a year's imprisonment and is not politically motivated or a military violation.

Morrison said he was "pleased" with the outcome and thanked the Thai government, as well as Australian football identity Craig Foster for his advocacy on the case.

Al-Araibi had initially been arrested in Bahrain in 2012 after authorities said he committed arson by burning down a police station.

Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday it had no comment on the case.

  • Jon Douglas