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Home / World / Hakeem al-Araibi returns to Australia following Thai imprisonment

Hakeem al-Araibi returns to Australia following Thai imprisonment



  Hakeem al-Araibi thanks supporters gathered for his return to Melbourne

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Getty Images

Caption

Hakeem al-Araibi was detained in Thailand for more than two months

Refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi returned to Australia after being released from a Thai prison.

The Bahraini citizen was held in a jail in Bangkok for more than two months after he was arrested following an Interpol communication issued by Bahrain.

The Arab kingdom ended Monday's extradition efforts for an international human rights campaign.

Hundreds of supporters hailed the arrival of the 25-year-old footballer at Melbourne Airport on Tuesday.

"Many thanks to Australia, it is amazing to see all the people here and all the Australians who have supported me," he told the crowd gathered in front of the airport.

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Getty Images

Caption [1
9659005] Hakeem al-Araibi (r) with football activist Craig Foster

The 25-year-old footballer, a vociferous critic of the Bahrain authorities, fled to Australia in 2014, where he was granted political asylum.

During his stay in Australia, Bahrain sentenced him to 10 years for vandalizing a police station. Charges that he has refused.

Human rights activists had warned that if they were sent back to the Arab kingdom, they could be tortured.

Hours before he arrived home, his wife told the BBC that she was deeply grateful for the lobbying efforts of the Australian Government and the public and the international football community.

"I had a smile on my face all the time and I can not stop crying – I'm just so happy," said the 24-year-old. who does not want to be named.

"I prayed and prayed that he would come back to me and end our nightmare."

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AFP / Getty Images

Caption [19659005] Al-Araibi's case had received significant public support in Australia

A campaign to secure his release was led by Craig Foster, a former Australian football captain and TV presenter, who initiated lobbying efforts by the international football organization Fifa and the International Olympic Committee.

"He's probably the best A famous young man in Australia, a very brave young man, a human rights defender we are so proud of, that Australia has fought so hard to bring it home," said Mr Foster while standing next to al-Araibi.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison tweeted on Monday, "We look forward to seeing you, Hakeem."

On Monday, Thai officials from the BBC shared with al -Araibi was released because Bahrain was no longer seeking his extradition.

The Bahrain Foreign Ministry said that despite the termination of the court extradition process, the footballer's conviction would still be upheld.

"The Kingdom of Bahrain reaffirms its right to take all necessary legal action against Mr. al-Araibi," he added.


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