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'He is a free man' - Thailand releases refugee footballer after extradition bid
12 February 2019, 12:53 | Tara Lloyd
READ MOREHakeem Al-Araibi Western Sydney Wanderers urged to end Thai Airways sponsorship deal
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 had a phone call from the Foreign Affairs Ministry this morning and they said Bahrain doesn't want him anymore", Chatchom told BBC.
On Monday, Chachom Akabin, director of the worldwide affairs division of the Thai attorney general's office, told reporters that Bahrain no longer wanted to take legal action against Araibi, so his office dropped the case.
The Pascoe Vale FC footballer has been given political asylum in Australia as a refugee since fleeing Bahrain five years ago after he was jailed and tortured for protesting against the Bahrain government.
The surprise decision on Monday ends more than 70 days of detention and global outcry over Bahrain's attempts to return the 25-year-old dissident refugee.
Mr Al-Araibi had been held at the Bangkok Remand Prison for two months after Bahrain said it would proceed with the extradition.
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".
Former Australia national team captain Craig Foster, who has been leading the campaign for Mr Araibi's release, praised all those who worked on the campaign. "He is a free man", said Chatchom Akapin, an official in the Thai Attorney-General's office.
Campaigners believe the case was bogus and have unearthed footage they say supports his claim that he was playing in a televised match at the time.
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.
Human rights activists in Bahrain have also welcomed the news.
The movement to save Hakeem Al-Araibi has spread across the footballing world. "It is a commitment enshrined in our human rights policy", he said.
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