Australian footballer Hakeem al-Araibi will return to Australia within the next 24 hours, after an extradition case against him in Thailand was dropped.
The director-general of international affairs for the Thai Government confirmed to the ABC that the Attorney-General requested the case for Mr al-Araibi’s extradition to Bahrain be dropped.
About 9:00pm AEDT on Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed Mr al-Araibi was on his way to Bangkok Airport to board a flight home.
Mr Morrison said he would “be pleased to see him at home when that occurs” but admitted he was “not taking anything for granted” until Mr al-Araibi touched down.
“We would like … to thank and show our appreciation to the Thai Government for the decision that they have taken today,” Mr Morrison told reporters.
“We greatly respect the process that they have had to work through and we greatly appreciate their listening to the issues that have been raised by our Government and many others.
“These issues are complex and the relationship with the Thai Government, in particular with Prime Minister Prayut is very strong, and we thank them for the way they have engaged with us on this matter now for some period of time.”
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said there were still a number of steps to go through but if everything goes smoothly, Mr al-Araibi should be reunited with his family in Australia “in the next day”.
The 25-year-old was arrested more than two months ago when he landed at Bangkok Airport over alleged vandalism offences in his native Bahrain.
A Bahraini court had sentenced him in absentia to 10 years in prison over claims by Bahraini authorities that he and a group of protesters attacked a police station with petrol bombs during the Arab Spring uprising.
He denied the allegations and said he was tortured by his captors during his detention before fleeing to Iran when he was allowed to travel to Qatar for a football match.
He eventually made it to Australia, where he was granted refugee status and plays semi-professional football for Pascoe Vale.
In November last year, he and his wife flew to Thailand for their honeymoon, believing his Australian visa allowed him to travel safely, but they were detained immediately when they landed at Bangkok’s Airport in response to an Interpol “red notice”.
Last week he told the ABC he was “very scared” of being sent back to Bahrain, saying he had been unfairly targeted because he criticised the country’s rulers.