Refugee footballer makes triumphant return to Australia

Refugee footballer makes triumphant return to Australia

“Two moments captured the world’s attention this month: the photo of footballer Hakeem al-Araibi shackled and barefoot, and the moment of Hakeem breaking the chains and reunited with his beloved wife, friends and the football community in Melbourne.”

Kasit Piromya, a board member of the lobby group ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, said the case showed the failings of Thailand’s “outdated” laws and policies.

Thailand’s treatment of refugees has been thrust under international scrutiny in recent weeks.

In January, an 18-year-old Saudi woman who ran away from her family arrived in Bangkok’s airport, and armed with a smartphone and a captive Twitter audience managed to outmanoeuvre Thai authorities and gain refuge in Canada following her pleas for asylum from her “abusive” family.

Bahrain’s reversal of Araibi’s extradition is surprising.

Only last week the Gulf state issued a statement defending its decision to pursue the footballer after he fled while awaiting trial, and he was convicted in absentia in 2014 for damaging a police station.

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.

A statement from Bahrain’s foreign ministry on Monday said it “takes note of the halt in legal proceedings” though it did not confirm it had withdrawn its extradition request.

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