Hakeem al-Araibi: Refugee footballer arrives in Australia after release from Thailand
Hundreds of supporters greeted the footballer at Melbourne Airport carrying welcome signs. “I would like to say thanks to Australia,” Al-Araibi told the crowd. “It’s amazing to see all of the people here and all of the Australian people and all of the media who supported me.”
A criminal court in Thailand ordered al-Araibi’s release on Monday after prosecutors submitted a court request to withdraw al-Araibi’s extradition case to his native Bahrain, where he faces a 10-year prison sentence.
“There are no grounds to hold him anymore. It is his right to decide where he will go next. He is a free man,” said Chatchom Akapin, an official in the Thai Attorney General’s office.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was “pleased Hakeem is coming home.”
“We would like to show our appreciation to the Thai government for the decision they have taken today,” Morrison said in Canberra, adding that Australians “greatly appreciate their listening to the issues that have been raised by our government and many others who have raised this case.”
Craig Foster, a former Australian soccer international who led the campaign to free al-Araibi, expressed his “deepest gratitude” on Twitter.
Bahrain’s foreign ministry said in a statement that it has taken note of a “halt of legal proceedings” and reaffirmed its right to “pursue all necessary legal actions against him.”