Refugee footballer makes triumphant return to Australia

Refugee footballer makes triumphant return to Australia

Former Socceroo Craig Foster (centre right) is seen with refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi (centre) as he arrives at Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Australia, February 12, 2019.

The club's next Victorian Premier League game is on Thursday against Heidelberg United and Foster flagged an appearance by Al-Araibi, although maybe his return will be saved for next week's home game against Bentleigh. "Something of this magnitude doesn't happen without an incredible team behind, and there's been an wonderful coalition of people, right from around the world". My thoughts are with Hakeem's wife.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had in recent weeks spoken out strongly on behalf of al-Araibi's freedom.

"I want to thank all Australians for their support in achieving this outcome", Morrison tweeted.

"What we would like to do tonight is to thank and show our appreciation to the Thai government for the decision that they have taken today", he said Monday.

Al-Araibi alleges he was tortured by Bahraini authorities to obtain a confession for the crime - for which his brother is still now in prison.

Anesthetist Richard Harris and his dive buddy Craig Challen, a retired veterinarian, were last month named joint winners of Australian of the Year award, one of Australia's most prestigious awards.

He was freed after almost three months of high-drama diplomacy, legal maneuvering by the governments of Australia, Thailand and Bahrain, and a loud public campaign by footballers and human rights activists.

Bahrain was keen to extradite Al-Araibi to serve a decade-long jail term for allegedly vandalising a police station - a crime the refugee says he did not commit as he was playing in a televised football match when the offence occurred.

But Araibi says his prosecution was motivated by his criticism of Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, a member of Bahrain's ruling family.

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Prosecutors made the decision after Thailand's foreign ministry sent their department a letter Monday indicating that Bahrain had withdrawn its request for al-Araibi, said Chatchom Akapin, the director general of the attorney general office's global affairs department.

Bahrain halted its extradition bid on Monday, while reserving the right to pursue further action against Araibi.

The refugee wore the jersey of his team, Pascoe Vale Football Club, as he stepped into the terminal.

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.

After liaising with Thai authorities, Bahrain eventually relented by agreeing to drop the extradition order.

Australian police acknowledged doing so, but there have been questions raised about why the Red Notice appeared to have been issued just before al-Araibi departed on his trip, and whether Bahraini authorities had been tipped off about his travel plans.

With Al-Araibi now free, attention has quickly shifted to who is to blame for his predicament in Thailand. "But Al-Araibi's case has also spotlighted gaps in FIFA's system of human rights protections, and the need to ensure that human rights policies and practices are fully implemented".

"I'd encourage the government to be upfront about this", Wong said. I will be more strong for this country.

Worldwide law academic Lorraine Finlay, a lecturer at Perth's Murdoch University, said it was not clear what process the Australian Federal Police had followed, other than that it appeared to be highly automated.

Australia has announced a review of its procedures for handling Interpol red notices.

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