Thailand to free refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi


Hakeem al-Araibi is due to be released by Thailand after Bahrain withdrew its extradition request.

The Bahraini citizen fled to Australia in 2014 and was granted political asylum; however, he was detained in Bangkok in November on an Interpol notice requested by Bahrain after travelling to the Thai capital on honeymoon.

Al-Araibi was sentenced in absentia to ten years for vandalising a police station but the 25-year-old denies the charges because he was playing in a televised football match. Human rights activists claim he could face torture if sent back to Bahrain due his history as a vocal critic of Bahraini authorities.

A number of high-profile footballers, including Didier Drogba and Jamie Vardy, have called for his release while the Australian government, FIFA and the International Olympic Committee all lobbied Thailand.

However, according to BBC Thai, Thailand’s Office of the Attorney General (OAG) asked the court to end the case against Al-Araibi after more than 70 days of detention because Bahrain no no longer want him.

“This morning the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed us that Bahrain was no longer interested in this request,” OAG foreign office chief Chatchom Akapin said.

Craig Foster, the former Australian football captain who played an instrumental role in the campaign to free al-Araibi, said:

“I am sure that embassy staff will take care of him. There’ll be tears there tonight, as there are in our household right now,” he said.


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When not busy covering local news for EssexLive, Matt Lee can be found in the press box at Portman Road covering Ipswich Town's return to the Championship and push for the Premier League.

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