Thai court drops Hakeem al-Araibi’s extradition case

It has been confirmed around 15:00 today (11 February) that the Thai court has dropped the extradition trial of detained footballer and refugee Hakeem al-Araibi, and that Hakeem will be allowed to return to Australia.

Hakeem al-Araibi arriving at his extradition hearing on 4 February

Chatchom Akkapin, Director-General of the International Affairs Department at the Office of the Attorney General, told BBC Thai that his Office was informed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs this morning that Bahrain no longer wishes to pursue their extradition request. The public prosecutor therefore requested the Court to withdraw Hakeem's extradition case and the Court approved the request. 

NSP Legal Office, Hakeem’s legal representatives, also confirmed that the case has been dropped. According to their statement, "the Bangkok Criminal Court accepted the request of the Office of Attorney-General to withdraw its indictment filed to extradite Mr. Hakeem al-Araibi back to Bahrain."

They also confirmed that the court has issued a release warrant and Hakeem will now be released from Bangkok Remand Prison, where he has been for the last 70 days, and will be allowed to return to Australia, where he has lived since fleeing Bahrain in 2014.

Thailand has now twice been under the international spotlight for its treatment of refugees and asylum seekers since the start of 2019, first when the Thai authorities detained and attempted to deport 18-year-old Saudi asylum seeker Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun. Rahaf has since been resettled in Canada, but her case brought attention to Hakeem, who has been detained since 27 November 2018. The threat of extradition then caused an international scandal, since he is a UN-recognised refugee who has been granted asylum in Australia, and his extradition would be in breach of the principle of non-refoulement. His release followed an international social media campaign and pressure from human rights groups and sport federations.

“This is a huge victory for the human rights movement in Bahrain, Thailand, and Australia, and even the whole world,” Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy of the Bahrain Institute of Rights and Democracy, told Al Jazeera.

"Hakeem's ordeal ended after 70 days when there was a clear public stance and solidarity movement. The football community, the human-rights movement and all of those who dedicated their time and efforts to end this injustice were rewarded.”