Aussie Campaigners Rejoice After Refugee Footballer Is Freed From Thai Prison

25-year-old refugee Hakeem al-Araibi will shortly return home to Australia after the Thai Criminal Court today ruled that the extradition case against him be dropped, according to reports from the ABC and The Sydney Morning Herald.

Al-Araibi was detained in November last year over an extradition request from Bahrain upon arriving at Bangkok Airport to start his honeymoon. He came to Australia seeking asylum in 2014 after fleeing from Bahrain and was granted refugee status in 2017.

Al-Araibi has been sentenced to 10 years in prison in Bahrain for alleged vandalism offences — which al-Araibi has denied committing — and has described being tortured in Bahrain when he was arrested in 2012.

Al-Araibi was flagged at the airport due to a later retracted Interpol red notice, which led Australia to inform Thailand of Al-Araibi’s upcoming travel to the country. In a statement, the Australian embassy in Bangkok described the red notice as a breach of Interpol’s own regulations:

The red notice should never have been issued because of Mr Alaraibi’s status as a protected refugee. This was a breach of Interpol’s regulations. The Australian Government was not initially aware of this, and in line with Interpol procedure notified Thailand of Mr Alaraibi’s travel.

Former Socceroos captain and SBS sports presenter Craig Foster, who has been vocally campaigning for al-Araibi’s release, expressed his gratitude to the Thai government on Twitter shortly after the news broke:

National director of Amnesty International Australia Claire Mallinson released a statement praising Thailand for its decision:

Amnesty is delighted to hear that after two long months Hakeem al-Araibi is finally coming home, and welcomes the Thai government’s decision to uphold Hakeem’s human rights.

While it has been a long and arduous two months in detention for Hakeem, Thailand has done the right thing in dropping the case against him. There has been overwhelming support for Hakeem from Australia and abroad, incredible work from Amnesty Ambassador Craig Foster with support from the football, sporting and olympic communities, human rights organisations, the Australian government and public as well as our colleagues in Amnesty Thailand. This would not have been possible without all the hard work and persistence of everyone involved.

Hakeem’s plight and the overwhelming support he received has received shows that the Australian public stand up for justice and for what is right. We look forward to welcoming Hakeem home tomorrow morning.

In a press conference, prime minister Scott Morrison confirmed that al-Araibi had been released and would shortly be returning home: