Melbourne: Refugee Bahraini footballer Hakeem al-Araibi landed here Tuesday after spending more than two months in detention in Thailand as his home country sought his extradition. He landed at around 1pm and was greeted by a large crowd of cheering supporters outside the airport with placards some of which read ‘Welcome Home Hakeem’.
“I would just thank Australia, it’s amazing to see all the people here, all of Australian people, the media who have supported me,” said Araibi. “I will be more strong for this country, I will be strong here just for Australia as it is my country. I don’t have citizenship yet, but my country is Australia,” added the player, accompanied by the former captain of the Australian national soccer team, Craig Foster, who led a campaign to free him.
A Thai court ordered Monday the release of Araibi after the prosecution withdrew the petition issued by Bahrain against the 25-year-old who plays for the semi-professional Melbourne team Pascoe Vale.
The soccer player, who arrived in Australia in 2014 after fleeing his country, was arrested November 27, 2018, on his arrival in Bangkok for his honeymoon.
The arrest was due to a red notice issued by Interpol, which was later withdrawn, and an extradition request submitted by Bahrain, which had sentenced him in absentia to 10 years in prison on charges of vandalizing a police station during Arab Spring protests.