Saturday, 23 February, 2019

Australia welcomes release of soccer player

Detained Bahraini soccer player Hakeem al Araibi arrives at the criminal court in Bangkok Thailand Detained Bahraini soccer player Hakeem al Araibi arrives at the criminal court in Bangkok
Andrew Cummings | 12 February, 2019, 02:19

Craig Foster, a former Australian soccer global who led the campaign to free al-Araibi, expressed his "deepest gratitude" on Twitter.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Melbourne-based Bahraini refugee had been released on Monday afternoon in Bangkok.

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.

But after Al-Araibi's release on Monday, Bahrain's Foreign Ministry said in a statement the 10-year jail sentence remained in place and reaffirmed the country's right to "pursue all necessary legal actions against him". The Shiite Muslim said he was targeted for his faith and because he had run afoul of Bahrain's ruling Sunni family owing to his brother's political activism.

"The decision to issue an worldwide arrest warrant stems from Mr.al-Araibi's decision to flee while awaiting trial", the state news agency wrote. Again, no specific details of the talks were given.

Al-Araibi, 25, was detained at Bangkok airport on November 27 when he arrived in Thailand for his honeymoon with his wife.

Araibi, who plays for the Pascoe Vale Football Club in Melbourne, fled Bahrain in 2014 after he was convicted of vandalizing a police station, despite appearing on television in a football match at the time of the alleged crime.

The refugee footballer is on his way home to Australia after being released from detention in Thailand on Monday night.

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He had faced at least another two months in jail after a court in Bangkok last week set down his pre-trial extradition hearing for April 22.

"This is a win for humanity, for the power of citizens of the world demanding that human rights be protected", Foster said in a statement.

The refugee footballer will be returned to Australia after months of pressure from rights groups, former Socceroos, the Australian government and even the heroes of the Thai cave rescue.

"What we would like to do tonight is to thank and show our appreciation to the Thai government for the decision that they have taken today", he said.

Human rights activists in Bahrain have also welcomed the news.

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

She said she requested his release on bail but it was denied because the court deemed him a flight risk.

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

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