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Refugee Bahraini football player becomes Australian citizen


Melbourne: Refugee Bahraini footballer Hakeem al-Araibi, who spent two months in a Thai prison due to an extradition request from Manama, on Tuesday became an Australian citizen.

"I'm an Aussie now... I feel safe," al-Araibi told the media at a ceremony here in which over 200 people from 44 countries were also recognised as Australian citizens.

Al-Araibi has lived in Australia since 2014 and received refugee status in 2017, reports Efe news.

During the ceremony, al-Araibi was accompanied by the former captain of the Australian national football team, Craig Foster, who led an international campaign for the release of this semi-professional player of Pascoe Vale.

"One very proud new Aussie who, after Australia demonstrated our values in fighting for his freedom, is deeply motivated to contribute to his new country," Foster said in a series of tweets.

"We're proud of you Hakeem, and delighted to welcome you on board."

The football player was arrested on November 27 at the airport in Bangkok, where he arrived to spend the honeymoon with his wife, following a red notice by Interpol requested from Bahrain, on which the Australian authorities informed their Thai counterparts.

The notice was withdrawn days later as it contravened regulations that a refugee's country of origin cannot issue such notices. However, Thailand detained the player alleging that Bahrain had already requested his extradition.

Al Araibi was finally released on February 11 and a day later he arrived back in Australia after the Thai public prosecutor withdrew the extradition request by Bahrain.

He was arrested in Bahrain in 2012 and claims he was tortured and then later sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison on charges of vandalising a police station during protests against the government. 

He denies the accusations since the alleged events occurred while he was playing a match with the national team of his country.



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