Hakeem al-Araibi: Thailand to free refugee footballer

The ACTU is urging Western Sydney Wanderers to do more for Hakeem Al-Araibi

A refugee Bahraini footballer with residency status in Australia boarded a flight for Melbourne early on Tuesday after Bahrain dropped its bid to have him extradited from Thailand, bringing to an end a case that had drawn worldwide criticism.

Former Australia captain Craig Foster has campaigned stridently for Al-Araibi's release and said his family had shed tears of joy at the news.

However, the Middle East nation has withdrawn the request, prompting a Thai court to approve a motion by prosecutors to drop the case against the footballer, Thai officials said. It is his right to decide where he will go next. Thai officials had said a trial could be lengthy, depending on how many witnesses are called by each side. As a recognised refugee travelling on an Australian travel document, Araibi should never have been subject to an Interpol red notice.

Al-Araibi had initially been arrested in Bahrain in 2012 after authorities said he committed arson by burning down a police station.

She said she requested his release on bail but it was denied because the court deemed him a flight risk.

In a statement, Bahrain's foreign ministry said it had noted the halt of legal proceedings and the verdict against the footballer remained in place.

He said Federation Internationale de Football Association has not discussed imposing sanctions on either Bahrain or Thailand over the case.

USA president invites bullied boy named Trump to annual speech
His speech will apparently call for unity across party lines and focus on border security and immigration, among other issues. The president was asked about Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's offer of $1 billion for border security.

The detention of Araibi, who appeared with his feet in shackles at a court hearing last week, drew global criticism, with Australian authorities and fellow footballers urging Thailand to release him.

Bahraini Hakeem al-Araibiwill fly home to Australia on Monday.

In addition to thanking Thailand, Morrison said Australians "greatly appreciate their listening to the issues that have been raised by our government and many others who have raised this case".

Bahrain has now dropped an extradition request made to Thailand, paving the way for Al-Araibi to return to Australia.

A Bahraini court sentenced him in absentia to 10 years in prison over claims by Bahraini authorities that he and a group of protesters attacked a police station with petrol bombs during the Arab Spring uprising.

But the soccer player disputed the charges, telling The New York Times that his innocence was easily documented because he appeared in a live televised match at the time of the incident.

But tonight Thai authorities finally relented after Bahrain apparently dropped their extradition demands and allowed Hakeem to be released.

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