Who We Are - News - FIFA statement on Hakeem Al Araibi

Bangkok, Refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi will not be sent back to Bahrain after Thailand dropped extradition proceedings against him at the Gulf State's request, a prosecutor said Monday.

"We have been informed that Bahrain wants to withdraw the (extradition) request".

Hakeen al-Araibi, 25, who had been living as a refugee in Australia with permanent resident status will return there, the country's prime minister, Scott Morrison, said.

He eventually made it to Australia, where he was granted refugee status.

The surprise decision on Monday ends more than 70 days of detention and worldwide outcry over Bahrain's attempts to return the 25-year-old dissident refugee. But it added that the guilty verdict against him "remains in place" and "t$3 he Kingdom of Bahrain reaffirms its right to pursue all necessary legal actions against Mr. Al Araibi".

In a statement, world players' union FIFPro said it was delighted that Al-Araibi had been released.

In November previous year, he and his wife flew to Thailand for their honeymoon, believing his Australian visa allowed him to travel safely, but they were detained immediately when they landed at Bangkok's Airport in response to an Interpol "red notice".

He was convicted of vandalising a police station during 2011 anti-government protests in Bahrain and sentenced in absentia after he fled.

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After his arrest in Bahrain, al-Araibi said police tortured him.

"They blindfolded me", he told the Times in 2016.

He appeared in court last week, led into the courthouse in shackles, and was remanded in custody for another 10 weeks until April 22. "He is a free man", said Chatchom Akapin, an official in the Thai Attorney-General's office.

"We would particularly like to thank former Socceroo Craig Foster for his tireless efforts in leading this campaign and we also acknowledge the work of Professional Footballers Australia, Football Victoria and Pascoe Vale FC".

"Fifa is committed to protecting human rights".

However Bahrain has reiterated their arrest warrant for Hakeem is still current and will seize him if he returns to the country of his birth. Rights groups said the case is part of a broader crackdown on dissidents.

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

The detention of Araibi, who appeared with his feet in shackles at a court hearing last week, drew global criticism, with Australian authorities and fellow footballers urging Thailand to release him.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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