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Volume 7 No. 149
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Refugee Bahraini Footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi Freed By Thai Authorities

Refugee Bahraini footballer Hakeem al-Araibi boarded a flight to Australia "after Thai authorities withdrew an extradition case against him," according to Davidson & Ellis-Petersen of the London GUARDIAN. Thai authorities said that the Bahraini government decided to end its pursuit of al-Araibi, who fled Bahrain in '14 "before being granted permanent residence in Australia, where he has lived since." Al-Araibi, 25, spent more than 70 days in detention "after traveling to Bangkok for a honeymoon with his wife" on Nov. 27. He was jailed and beaten in Bahrain "during a crackdown on pro-democracy athletes." He was later sentenced in absentia to 10 years in jail "over an act of vandalism he maintains he could not have committed because he was playing in a televised football match." Before Monday, Bahrain had "stood firm" on its allegations against al-Araibi and denial of all accusations of human rights abuses, "despite a mounting international scandal" (GUARDIAN, 2/11).

'FREE MAN': REUTERS' Tanakasempipat & Kittisilpa reported al-Araibi was arrested in November at a Bangkok airport, following an Interpol notice issued at Bahrain's request. Thai Attorney-General's office official Chatchom Akapin said, "There are no grounds to hold him anymore. It is his right to decide where he will go next. He is a free man." A witness said that al-Araibi was seen leaving the Bangkok remand prison in a car and immigration officials said that he was heading for the main int'l airport in the Thai capital. Amnesty Int'l, which lobbied for his release, later said that al-Araibi arrived at the airport. It was not "immediately clear when or why Bahrain withdrew its request" (REUTERS, 2/11).

STILL STANDING: The BBC reported Bahrain's foreign ministry on Monday said that despite the end of the extradition proceedings, "the footballer's conviction still stood." It added, "The Kingdom of Bahrain reaffirms its right to pursue all necessary legal actions against Mr al-Araibi" (BBC, 2/11).