The 25-year old refugee Bahraini footballer Hakeem al-Araibi is now with his wife and family in Australia after his release from Thai authorities on Monday night, 11 February.
Al-Hakeem left Bahrain after being detained and beaten as a pro-democracy activist. After his release, he obtained refugee status in Australia. Following his departure, the Government of Bahrain, in his absence, convicted him based on false charges and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.
In violation of their own rules, and international law, Interpol responded to the Bahraini extradition order by issuing a “red notice”. Based on that notice, Thai authorities arrested him when he arrived in Thailand for his honeymoon and held him for more than 70 days.
The Thai authorities withdrew the extradition request from the courts based on “new evidence”. Subsequently, the Bahraini government lifted the extradition order, although they reserved the right to renew charges later.
BWI joined the campaign for the release of Hakeem al-Araibi spearheaded by a number of international organizations including World Players Association of UNI and Human Rights Watch, and as part of its campaign to promote the respect of human rights in sports.
BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson recognised Thailand for responding to appeals from human rights groups, trade unions, sports fans, and others and acting in accordance with international law protecting refugees.
He said, “We are very happy that Hakeem al-Araibi is free. We hope that the democratic reforms he fought for in Bahrain will prevail and that he, and others, will be free to return to or visit their homeland. As we celebrate this triumph for justice, however, we must not forget other refugees who are not being treated fairly and do not benefit from the spotlight of global campaigns.”