Thailand to free Bahraini footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi

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A football player and refugee whose detention in Thailand sparked an outcry will be freed and will return to Australia after Bahrain withdrew its extradition request, officials say.

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

Prosecutors made the decision after Thailand's foreign ministry sent a letter on Monday morning indicating that Bahrain had withdrawn its request for Al-Araibi, Chatchom Akapin, director general of the attorney general office's worldwide affairs department, said.

Hakeem al-Araibi, a refugee soccer player from Bahrain, leaves criminal court in Bangkok on February 4. Through social media, mostly Twitter, the 18-year-old publicized her case, staved off efforts to return her to her family and won refugee status in Canada. But it added that the guilty verdict against him "remains in place" and "t$3 he Kingdom of Bahrain reaffirms its right to pursue all necessary legal actions against Mr. Al Araibi".

Australian Prime Minister praised the decision and said late Monday that al-Araibi was on his way to the airport.

A similar campaign was launched on behalf of Araibi by human rights groups, fellow soccer players and other activists - including the heroes who helped save a Thai soccer team trapped in a cave past year - with the hashtag #SaveHakeem.

"They blindfolded me", he told the Times in 2016.

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Bahrain wanted him returned to serve a 10-year prison sentence he received in absentia in 2014 for an arson attack that damaged a police station, which he denies.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei of the London-based campaign group the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy said: "This is a huge victory for the human rights movement in Bahrain, Thailand and Australia, and even the whole world".

Al-Araibi was arrested and detained last November, while on his honeymoon in Thailand at the request of the Bahraini government.

"They have to send him home as quickly as possible". There was no global reaction for previous renditions from Thailand of refugees and asylum-seekers to countries where campaigners said they risked ill-treatment.

"Fifa is committed to protecting human rights".

Separately, BNA said Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa met Sunday with Thailand's foreign minister who was visiting the island.

In his comments Monday, he said he appreciated the work of all involved in securing al-Araibi's release.

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