Bahraini footballer Hakeem al-Araibi set to be released by Thai authorities


He is expected to fly home to his wife in Melbourne tonight, arriving in Melbourne around 1pm tomorrow.

"We have been informed that Bahrain wants to withdraw the (extradition) request. if they don't want him, we have no reason to keep him here", he told AFP.

Araibi, who plays for the Pascoe Vale Football Club in Melbourne, fled Bahrain in 2014 after he was convicted of vandalizing a police station, despite appearing on television in a football match at the time of the alleged crime.

He also believes he was targeted for arrest because of his Shiite faith and because his brother was politically active in Bahrain. Her nightmare will shortly be at an end.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, after earlier criticizing Thai authorities' handling of the case, said Monday evening, "We greatly respect the process that they've 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".

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.

Bahrain has a Shia majority but is ruled by a Sunni monarchy.

The Thai Foreign Ministry later refused to give details of why Bahrain asked for the case to be dropped.

The Bahraini government had insisted that he should be treated as a simple fugitive and will have an opportunity to appeal his conviction in the country's courts.

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"We are extremely grateful to the Governments of Thailand and Bahrain for taking the decision to allow Hakeem to return to Australia", Nikou said.

Again, had 25-year-old al-Araibi not been a footballer, his plight likely wouldn't have evoked much of a reaction beyond the human rights groups whose days are filled with such cases.

The Bangkok court previously set an April 22 date for the next hearing.

The Thai Attorney-General then applied for the court to drop the case, and he was immediately taken from the jail to the airport.

"This is a win for humanity, for the power of citizens of the world demanding that human rights be protected", Foster said in a statement.

Bahrain continues to face fierce criticism from human rights organizations.

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

Court spokesman Suriyan Hongvilai said Monday that Hakeem al-Araibi was now being processed for release.