Thai court frees Melbourne-based refugee

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"[The] guilty verdict against Mr al-Araibi remains in place and Mr al-Araibi holds the right to appeal this court verdict" in Bahrain's Court of Appeals, Bahrain's Foreign Ministry said in a statement after his release. He was seen talking happily as he walked past the gate to board his plane.

Al-Araibi play professionally for the Pascoe Vale football team in Melbourne, has a residency permit and refugee status in Australia.

Bangkok, Refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi will not be sent back to Bahrain after Thailand dropped extradition proceedings against him at the Gulf State's request, a prosecutor said Monday.

Mr al-Araibi's wife issued a statement thanking people for the support that had been offered to her husband.

Bahrain authorities did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment. 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.

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison has welcomed Mr al-Araibi's release, and thanked the Thai Government.

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

He was wanted by Bahrain after fleeing the country when he was charged with vandalising a police station in 2012. He was sentenced to 10 years in jail in absentia.

"We are extremely grateful to the Governments of Thailand and Bahrain for taking the decision to allow Hakeem to return to Australia", Nikou said.

Al-Arabi's extradition case quickly grew worldwide attention, with non-governmental organizations Amnesty global and Human Rights Watch calling for his release.

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

On social network Twitter, former Australia soccer captain Craig Foster, who had helped lobby officials at world governing body Federation Internationale de Football Association, said, "My thanks go to the wonderful people of Thailand for your support and to the Thai government for upholding worldwide law".

Mr Araibi has said he was blindfolded and had his legs beaten while he was held in Bahrain previously.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has said Araibi was tortured by Bahraini authorities because of his brother's political activities during the 2011 protests.

The shock decision by the Thai government and courts to free him brought to an end Bahrain's attempts to have the dissident and athlete returned to them.

"We greatly respect the process that [the Thai government] had to work through and we greatly appreciate their listening to the issues", Morrison said on Monday afternoon.

A prominent Bahraini soccer player who had been facing a decade behind bars in his home country on disputed arson charges, was released from a Bangkok prison Monday after extradition charges against him were dropped.

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