July 17, 2019

Thailand to Release Soccer Player Facing Extradition to Bahrain

Thailand to Release Soccer Player Facing Extradition to Bahrain


A court in Thailand on Monday approved a government request to drop the extradition case against a soccer player who faced being sent back to his native Bahrain, where he said he would most likely be jailed and tortured. The move paves the way for the player, Hakeem al-Araibi, to return to Australia, where he has refugee status.

Mr. al-Araibi, 25, who had been a star defender for the Bahraini national soccer team, fled the small Gulf nation in 2011 during a crackdown on Arab Spring protesters. He said he had been tortured by government security forces. He now plays soccer for a minor team in Melbourne, Australia.

After his arrest in November at an airport in Bangkok, where he and his wife had traveled for their honeymoon, he became the focus of lobbying by diplomats, prominent sports figures and a social media campaign under the hashtag #savehakeem.

A lawyer for Mr. al-Araibi said she expected he would be released from custody later Monday evening and fly back to Australia as soon as his departure was approved.

“This is the best outcome,” said the lawyer, Natalie Bergman. “It should have happened from the beginning, but later is better than nothing.”



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