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Warm welcome for freed Bahraini soccer player

Video Credit: Reuters Studio - Duration: 01:08s - Published < > Embed
Warm welcome for freed Bahraini soccer player

Warm welcome for freed Bahraini soccer player

A refugee Bahraini footballer, who was held in a Thai prison for more than two months at the Gulf state's request, arrived back in his adoptive hometown of Melbourne on Tuesday.

Michelle Hennessy reports.

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Warm welcome for freed Bahraini soccer player

(SOUNDBITE) (English) CROWD, YELLING: "Welcome home Hakeem!" Hundreds of supporters welcomed refugee soccer player Hakeem Al Araibi home to Melbourne on Tuesday (February 12).

The Bahraini national had been held in a Thai prison for more than two months, after he was arrested during his honeymoon in Bangkok, at the request of Bahrain.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) REFUGEE FOOTBALLER HAKEEM AL ARAIBI, SAYING: "Australia, this is my country.

I didn't citizenship yet, but my country is Australia.

I will die in Australia and I love Australia." He was released from prison on Monday (February 11).

Bahrain accuses him of crimes committed during the 2011 Arab Spring - charges he denies.

The 25 year-old fled Bahrain in 2014 and received refugee status in Australia.

The Australian government, civil rights groups, and even FIFA itself - all lobbied for his release.

Human Rights Watch says Araibi was targeted and tortured by Bahraini authorities, because of his brother's political activities during the uprising.

Bahrain denies those allegations - and after coming under heavy diplomatic pressure, and public outrage, the Gulf state agreed to drop its bid to have him extradited.




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