Refugee soccer player Hakeem al-Araibi freed by Thailand after international outcry

Yahoo Sports
Hakeem al-Araibi has been freed by Thailand after international backlash. (Australian Associated Press)
Hakeem al-Araibi has been freed by Thailand after international backlash. (Australian Associated Press)

A story that made headlines across the world and rallied together the international soccer community finally has its resolution.

Hakeem al-Araibi, held captive in Thailand since Nov. 27, has been freed by Thai authorities after his native Bahrain decided to end its extradition pursuit of the Australia-based soccer player.

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Al-Araibi fled Bahrain in 2014 and has been outspoken against its ruling family, which includes Asian Football Confederation president Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa. He alleges the government has blindfolded and beaten him in the past while held against his will, and has expressed fear that he will be tortured or even killed should he return. Bahrain has accused him of vandalizing a police station and wants al-Araibi to serve a 10-year prison sentence.

Having been granted political asylum in Australia, al-Araibi has played for four different clubs since 2015, including a current stint with semi-professional club Pascoe Vale FC. While on honeymoon in Thailand late last fall, the 25-year-old defender was apprehended and held in Bangkok after Interpol was alerted to his presence outside of Australia.

The plight of al-Araibi drew the attention not only of media outlets and soccer fans around the world, but also big names like Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy, former Chelsea star Didier Drogba and longtime England international-turned-pundit Gary Lineker. The hashtag #SaveHakeem emblematized the movement across social media platforms, especially Twitter.

Former Australian international Craig Foster, who spent several seasons in the Premier League, has been perhaps the most vocal supporter of al-Araibi:

Joey Gulino is the editor of Yahoo Soccer and moonlights as a writer. Follow him on Twitter at @JGulinoYahoo.

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