Hakeem al-Araibi Finally Welcomed Home By Supporters At Melbourne Airport


Araibi was reportedly freed at 3.55pm on Monday and was expected to return to Australia on Monday night.

Refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi has returned home to a celebrity welcome in Australia hours after the threat of extradition to Bahrain was lifted.

"I want to thank Australia - it is unbelievable to see all the people here", he said.

Two Australian expert cave divers who had helped rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded Thai cave in July also wrote to the Thai prime minister last week pleading for Al-Araibi's release. "It's awesome to see all of the people here and all of the Australian people and all of the media who supported me".

Former Australia national team captain Craig Foster, who has been leading the campaign for Araibi's release, praised all those who worked on the campaign.

An Interpol bungle allowed an arrest warrant to be issued for Al-Araibi despite him being given political asylum by Australia while he awaits Australian citizenship.

Prosecutors made the decision after Thailand's foreign ministry sent their department a letter on Monday indicating that Bahrain had withdrawn its request for Al-Araibi, a Thai official said.

A Reuters witness said Mr Araibi was seen leaving the Bangkok remand prison in a auto and immigration officials said he was heading for the main global airport in the Thai capital.

Bahrain's Foreign Ministry said in a statement after his release that the "guilty verdict against Mr.al-Araibi remains in place and Mr.al-Araibi holds the right to appeal this court verdict at Bahrain's Court of Appeal". He said he believed he was targeted for arrest because of his Shiite faith and because his brother was politically active in Bahrain.

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He was detained at the request of Bahrain relayed through Interpol upon his arrival in Bangkok in November while on a honeymoon with his wife.

Al-Araibi, a former member of Bahrain's national football team, was detained and tortured following the 2011 Arab Spring protests there.

"They should think about giving him one minute (on Thursday) but I hope not because next Friday will be a home game", he said. "I want to thank this man who cares so much". "Two moments captured the world's attention this month: the photo of footballer Hakeem al-Araibi shackled and barefoot, and the moment of Hakeem breaking the chains and reunited with his beloved wife, friends and the football community in Melbourne". Her nightmare will shortly be at an end.

It was not clear whether Australia had informed Bahrain that Al-Araibi was flying, although Bahrain requested the Red Notice on the same day that al-Araibi received his Thai visa, Goodwin-Gill said. However, Bahrain state media reported on Sunday that Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa had spoken on the phone with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Kasit Piromya, a board member of the lobby group ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, said the case showed the failings of Thailand's "outdated" laws and policies. Again, no specifics were provided.

His detention sparked worldwide outcry and a protracted diplomatic dispute between Bahrain, Thailand and Australia that raised questions about the neutrality of the International Criminal Police Organisation, commonly known as Interpol, and the writ of Canberra's refugee protections.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison led celebration of Araibi's release, saying many Australians' prayers had been answered.

"We are grateful to the Thai government and thank them for the way they have engaged with us to enable Hakeem to return to Australia", he added.