Thai court orders release of refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi

Wanderers Thai Airways

Hakeem Al-Araibi, the refugee footballer detained in Thailand, will be freed from prison after Bahrain Monday made the shock decision to drop its extradition case.

"We have been informed that Bahrain wants to withdraw the (extradition) request. if they don't want him, we have no reason to keep him here", he told AFP.

However, the Middle East nation has withdrawn the request, prompting a Thai court to approve a motion by prosecutors to drop the case against the footballer, Thai officials said.

Bahrain's Foreign Ministry said in a statement after his release that the "guilty verdict against Mr.al-Araibi remains in place and Mr.al-Araibi holds the right to appeal this court verdict at Bahrain's Court of Appeal".

Araibi has said he wants to return to Australia, where he has lived since 2014 and plays for a Melbourne football club.

The pity is, the past two months of detention and fears he would be tortured on return to Bahrain could have all been avoided.

Separately, BNA said Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa had met Thailand's foreign minister, who was visiting the island, on Sunday.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, after earlier criticizing Thai authorities' handling of the case, said Monday evening, "We greatly respect the process that they've had to work through, and we greatly appreciate their listening to the issues that have been raised by our government and many others who have raised this case".

Australian police acknowledge doing so, but there have been questions raised about why the Red Notice appeared to have been issued just before al-Araibi departed on his trip, and whether Bahraini authorities had been tipped off about his travel plans.

His own Australian soccer team Pascoe Vale FC; FIFA, the global soccer federation and the International Olympic Committee were among the organizations calling for his release.

He travelled to Bangkok for a honeymoon with his wife but was arrested on arrival on 27 November, after Bahrain obtained an Interpol arrest warrant.

She said she requested his release on bail but it was denied because the court deemed him a flight risk. "It is a commitment enshrined in our human rights policy", he said.

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

He said Federation Internationale de Football Association has not discussed imposing sanctions on either Bahrain or Thailand over the case.

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