FFA under fire over 'ridiculous' response to jailed footballer's release

12 February, 2019, 04:57 | Author: Trevor Moore
  • Craig Foster left and Hakeem Al Araibi at Melbourne Airport Australia on Tuesday

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

Craig Foster has described the release of Hakeem Al-Araibi from a Thailand prison as "a win for humanity" with the refugee set to arrive in Melbourne on Tuesday.

Araibi was released by Thai authorities on Monday evening when Bahrain, his country of birth, requested the Thai attorney-general's office drop a case against him.

In the wake of the news, chairman Chris Nikou thanked the Bahrain government, despite the nation declaring they didn't endorse Al-Araibi's release.

"We have been informed that Bahrain wants to withdraw the (extradition) request".

The statement has been slammed by fans, given Bahrain had said al-Araibi's conviction remains in place and "Bahrain reaffirms its right to pursue all necessary legal actions against Mr al-Araibi".

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

After two months in a Bangkok prison the Bahraini refugee was released on Monday afternoon, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirming the news.

Al-Araibi, a refugee who lives and plays for Melbourne-based Pascoe Vale in Australia, has been held in Thailand since November at the request of Bahrain after being arrested in Bangkok while on honeymoon. He was detained upon his arrival in Bangkok in November while on a holiday at the request of Bahrain relayed through Interpol - from the worldwide police body's Australian office.

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He was sentenced in absentia to 10 years for vandalising a police station.

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

A similar campaign was launched on behalf of Araibi by human rights groups, fellow soccer players and other activists - including the heroes who helped save a Thai soccer team trapped in a cave previous year - with the hashtag #SaveHakeem.

He fled Bahrain while playing for the national team in Qatar in 2013 before making his way to Australia via Iran, Malaysia and Thailand, and seeking asylum in 2014.

In a statement provided to Guardian Australia, they said they were "heartened" to see pictures of his release, but urged the world not to turn away from those still unjustly detained in Bahrain.

Mr Araibi's supporters said he should be freed and is protected under his status as a refugee with Australian residency.

Separately, BNA said Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa met Sunday with Thailand's foreign minister who was visiting the island.

"We greatly respect the process that they have had to work through and we greatly appreciate their listening to the issues that have been raised by our government and many others who have raised this case".

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