SHAFAQNA– A shia soccer player was released from three months prison in Bangkok and returned Australia on Tuesday hours after the threat of extradition to Bahrain was lifted. France 24 released a photo of his arrival at Melbourne airport in which a cleric hugs him.
Hundreds of supporters carrying welcome signs and singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” were waiting at Melbourne Airport when Hakeem al-Araibi arrived on a commercial flight direct from Bangkok.
Al-Araibi told the cheering crowd “It’s amazing to see all of the people here and all of the Australian people and all of the media who supported me.”
Thailand had come under great pressure from Australia’s government, sporting bodies and human rights groups to send Hakeem al-Araibi back to Australia, where he has refugee status and plays semi-professional soccer.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who wrote twice to his Thai counterpart Prayuth Chan-ocha in a bid to secure al-Araibi’s freedom, thanked Australians as well as Thai authorities.
“I want to thank all Australians for their support in achieving this outcome,” Morrison tweeted.
“We are grateful to the Thai government and thank them for the way they have engaged with us to enable Hakeem to return to Australia,” he added, France 24 reported.
Officials in Bahrain, an island kingdom off the coast of Saudi Arabia that’s home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, said the country “reaffirms its right to pursue all necessary legal actions against” al-Araibi.
Al-Araibi, 25, who fled Bahrain in 2014 due to political repression and that he fears torture if he returns and received refugee status in Australia, detained at the request of Bahrain relayed through Interpol upon his arrival in Bangkok in November while on a honeymoon with his wife.