11 February 2019 – Bahraini refugee footballer, Hakeem AlAraibi is set to return to his home in Australia tonight after a Thai Court ruled that his extradition case be dropped. The decision comes after 76 days of unlawful detention in Bangkok under Bahrain’s request.
Yesterday, the Thai Foreign Minister was in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, to discuss “bilateral relations between Bahrain and Thailand and reviewed areas of mutual interest.” Bahrain withdrew its request to extradite AlAraibi. Thai prosecutors submitted a motion to drop the case, which was accepted by the court.
AlAraibi was detained on 27 November 2018 in Bangkok during his honeymoon upon Bahrain’s request, due to a criminal conviction in 2014 that AlAraibi strongly denies.
Commenting, Director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, Sayed Alwadaei, said: “This is a huge victory for the human rights movement in Bahrain, Thailand and Australia, and even the whole world. It took 76 days to end Hakeem’s ordeal, but it was possible because of the solidarity of the football community, human rights movement and all those who dedicated their time and efforts to end this injustice. Today, we were all rewarded with the best outcome, most of all Hakeem who can finally return home to his wife.
Now, let’s continue the fight to release all political prisoners who languish in Bahrain’s prisons.”
On 11 December 2018, the court ordered AlAraibi’s detention for 60 days, after the Thai Immigration authorities decided to proceed with formal extradition proceedings against AlAraibi on 6 December 2018.
In January 2014, AlAraibi was sentenced in absentia to ten years on fabricated charges of vandalising a police car, a crime that was committed while he was playing a televised football match. AlAraibi fled to Australia in May 2014, where he was granted refugee status in November 2017.
AlAraibi’s ordeal attracted significant attention, with Australian PM Scott Morrison writing a letter to his Thai counterpart Prayuth Chan-ocha, requesting that Araibi be allowed to return home. The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and International Olympic Committee recently reiterated their public call for AlAraibi’s safe return to his home in Melbourne. On 29 January, for the first time, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) also have joined FIFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in calling for AlAraibi’s release. On 29 January, FIFA held an urgent meeting with former Australian international Craig Foster and Brendan Schwab from the World Players Association, to discuss AlAraibi’s situation.