Bahraini footballer Hakeem al-Araibi arrived in Australia on Tuesday after Thai authorities withdrew extradition proceedings against him.
The 25-year-old travelled to Thailand on his honeymoon and was arrested upon arrival on November 27, detained on an Interpol notice issued at Bahrain’s request.
Al-Araibi fled his homeland in 2014 before being granted permanent residence in Australia, where he has since lived and is on the books of semi-professional club Pascoe Vale.
The pro-democracy advocate has been sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment in absentia by the Bahrain regime for alleged vandalism but denies any involvement.
Al-Araibi arrived back in Melbourne to a huge welcome on Tuesday before thanking his supporters.
“Thanks to Australia and it’s amazing to see all the people here, all the Australian people, all the media that supported me,” he told a news conference.
“I just wanted to thank the Australian government, Australian people.”
— The PFA (@thepfa) February 12, 2019
Al-Araibi saved special thanks for former Australia captain Craig Foster, who championed the campaign to free him.
“I want to thank this man who fought so much for my case,” he said.
“I thank the media, all the human rights. Thank you. I will be more strong for this country and I will be strong here for Australia. This is my country.
“I don’t have citizenship yet, but my country is Australia. I love Australia.”
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