Former Bahraini footballer detained in Thailand to return to Australia - Pugoblog

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Former Bahraini footballer detained in Thailand to return to Australia

                              
After more than 70 days in detention in Thailand, ex-football player Bahrain Hakeem Ali Al-Araibi will return to Australia where he enjoys political refugee status, the emirate having waived his request for 'extradition.

"We have been informed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the withdrawal by Bahrain of his request for extradition ... If they do not claim it, we have no reason to keep it here," said the prosecutor's office on Monday. Thai.

The former player was released from prison and placed with the immigration authorities for quick return to Australia.

The emirate said in a statement that "the prosecution" and "the verdict of guilty against Mr. Al-Araibi remain in force".

The former player of the national football team of Bahrain was sentenced in 2014 in absentia to ten years in prison by the emirate's justice. He was accused of damaging a police station two years earlier during demonstrations on the sidelines of the "Arab Spring".

He has always denied the facts, claiming to be at the time abroad to play a game. Hakeem Al-Araibi considers himself threatened in his country, notably for criticizing Cheikh Salman ben Ibrahim Al Khalifa, a member of the ruling family and president of the Asian Football Confederation.

The 25-year-old was arrested on 27 November in Thailand, where he had come to spend his honeymoon.

- International support -

"I am happy that Hakeem is coming home and I will be happy to see him at home," said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, thanking the Thai authorities.

His release is "a great victory for the human rights movement," former Australian football captain Craig Foster said at the helm of Al-Araibi's release campaign , while Amnesty International hailed "the impact that solidarity can have in dealing with refugees".

Since his arrest, a highly publicized international campaign has been demanding his return to Australia. The International Football Federation (FIFA) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) supported him.


The Thai authorities nevertheless agreed to consider Bahrain's request for extradition and the case was referred to a criminal court in Bangkok.

In early February, the latter had rejected the bail of the former player fearing he would abscond.

Thailand is not a signatory to the refugee convention and many are returned to their country of origin.

The kingdom has promised a relaxation of its migration policy after the case of Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, an 18-year-old Saudi woman, who the Thai authorities gave up in January, under pressure from social networks, to return to her country where she says threatened, accepting that it be welcomed by Canada.

The refugees will no longer be returned to their country "against their will," the head of the immigration police, Surachate Hakparn, said.

He said at the time that this would not apply to the Al-Araibi case because there was an arrest warrant against the player. Interpol's red notice against the player had been lifted.

The withdrawal of the extradition proceedings comes after a meeting in Manama between the Thai Foreign Minister and the Crown Prince of Bahrain, Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa. Different "areas of interest" were discussed, according to the official press agency of the emirate.

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