Hakeem al-Araibi: Thailand to free refugee footballer

Detained Bahraini soccer player Hakeem al Araibi arrives at the criminal court in Bangkok Thailand

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

A police auto believed to be carrying Bahraini footballer Hakeem Al Araibi is pictured as it leaves the Bangkok's Remand Prison, Thailand, February 11, 2019.

"My thanks go to the wonderful people of Thailand for your support and to the Thai government for upholding global law", former Australia soccer captain Craig Foster, who helped lobby officials at world governing body Federation Internationale de Football Association to intervene on Araibi's behalf, said on social network Twitter after the news.

As a recognised refugee travelling on an Australian travel document, Araibi should never have been subject to an Interpol red notice.

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.

The Bahraini government had insisted that he should be treated as a simple fugitive and will have an opportunity to appeal his conviction in the country's courts.

"We had a phone call from the Foreign Affairs Ministry this morning and they said Bahrain doesn't want him anymore", Chatchom told BBC.

"The Thai government should see that Bahrain's sole motive is to further punish Hakeem for the peaceful political opinions he expressed", Amnesty International Thailand campaigner Katherine Gerson said in an earlier statement.

Nadthasiri Bergman, Mr Araibi's lawyer, said the court had given her 60 days to submit the defence's case. He says he faces torture if returned to Bahrain.

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