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Thailand to free Bahraini footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi

Thailand to free Bahraini footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi”

He is wanted for damaging a police station but the former national youth footballer says the case is bogus and tied to his criticism of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, a member of Bahrain's ruling family.

As a recognised refugee travelling on an Australian travel document, Araibi should never have been subject to an Interpol red notice.

He left Bahrain for Australia in 2014, which granted him political asylum in 2017.

Bahrain has denied allegations of torture and said Mr Araibi is a fugitive who should be returned. He has been living in Melbourne, where he plays for a semi-professional football team. He said he believed he was targeted for arrest because of his Shiite faith and because his brother was politically active in Bahrain.

The 25-year-old was detained in Bangkok more than two months ago for alleged vandalism offences in his native Bahrain.

Morrison said he was "pleased" with the outcome and thanked the Thai government, as well as Australian football identity Craig Foster for his advocacy on the case.

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.

Foreign minister Marise Payne said there were still "a number of steps to go in this process" but said al-Araibi would hopefully be back in Australia in the next day or so.

It was not immediately clear when Bahrain withdrew its extradition request. She said "a great deal" of work had gone on behind the scenes.



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