Thai court orders release of refugee football player

A Thai court has ordered the release of a refugee football player after prosecutors said they were no longer seeking his extradition to Bahrain in a case that has drawn worldwide attention.

Hakeem al-Araibi, who lives and plays professional football in Australia, was being processed for release, a court spokesman said.

Prosecutors submitted to court a request to withdraw the case to extradite the footballer 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 says the case is politically motivated.

A van believed to be carrying Hakeem al-Araibi leaves prison (Sakchai Lalit/AP)

Prosecutors made the decision after Thailand’s foreign ministry sent their department a letter that indicated Bahrain had withdrawn its request for Mr al-Araibi.

The state-run Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported on Sunday that Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa had a phone call with Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, but offered no specifics on their discussions.

Separately, BNA said Bahrain’s Crown Prince, Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Thailand’s foreign minister, who was visiting the island, on Sunday.

The 25-year-old footballer is a former Bahraini national team player. He has said he fled his home country due to political repression. He has been living in Melbourne, where he plays for a semi-professional football team.

His supporters have said he should be freed and is protected under his status as a refugee with Australian residency.

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

- Press Association

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