Thai court orders release of Bahrain refugee football player

BANGKOK (AP) – A Thai court ordered the release of a refugee football player yesterday after prosecutors said they were no longer seeking his extradition to Bahrain in a case that had drawn worldwide attention.

Thailand had come under great pressure from Australia’s government, sporting bodies and human rights groups to send Hakeem al-Araibi back to Australia, where he has refugee status and plays semi-professional football.

Australian Prime Minister praised the decision and said late yesterday that al-Araibi was on his way to the airport. “Now the next step is for him to return home,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

“But as is always in these cases, people aren’t home until they’re home.

Thai prosecutors yesterday submitted to court a request to withdraw the case to extradite al-Araibi to Bahrain, where he faces a 10-year prison sentence for an arson attack that damaged a police station.

He has denied those charges and said the case is politically motivated.

Refugee football player Bahraini Hakeem al-Araibi leaves the criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand on February 4. – AP