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Refugee footballer freed after Bahrain drops extradition

11 February 2019

Bahraini footballer Hakeem al-Araibi is set to be released from custody after Thai authorities withdrew extradition proceedings against him.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed on Monday night that, as of 9pm, al-Araibi had been freed from prison and was on his way to the airport to travel back to Australia.

The movement to save Hakeem Al-Araibi has spread across the footballing world.

But as footballers and fans say goodbye to Sala, knowing that their generosity and support helped offer closure to his grieving family, they have everything still to do for al-Araibi.

"My thanks go to the wonderful people of Thailand for your support and to the Thai government for upholding global law", former Australia soccer captain Craig Foster, who helped lobby officials at world governing body Federation Internationale de Football Association to intervene on Araibi's behalf, said on social network Twitter after the news.

The 25-year-old pro-democracy advocate has been sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment in absentia by the Bahrain regime for alleged vandalism but denies any involvement.

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

Mr Araibi has said he was blindfolded and had his legs beaten while he was held in Bahrain previously.

Bahrain has a Shia majority but is ruled by a Sunni monarchy.

"The Thai government should see that Bahrain's sole motive is to further punish Hakeem for the peaceful political opinions he expressed", Amnesty International Thailand campaigner Katherine Gerson said in an earlier statement.

The Guardian has been told by Gulf democracy advocates and al-Araibi's Thai lawyer that the Thai government has pulled the extradition case out of the courts.

Human rights activists in Bahrain have also welcomed the news.

Refugee footballer freed after Bahrain drops extradition