“I want to thank Australia” said a smiling Hakeem al-Araibi. “This is my country,” he said.
Refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi made a triumphant return to Australia Tuesday, ending a two month ordeal that saw him jailed in Thailand and threatened with forced return to his native Bahrain.
A throng of well wishers decked in #SAVEHAKEEM T-shirts cheered and sang the football anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as they greeted the 25-year-old defender at Melbourne Airport, after an overnight flight to freedom aboard Thai Airways flight 465.
“I want to thank Australia” said a smiling Araibi “this is my country.”
“I don’t have citizenship yet, but my country is Australia. I will die in Australia and I love Australia,” he said.
Araibi was detained on November 27 while on honeymoon at the request of Bahraini authorities who accuse him of offences linked to the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.
His detention sparked worldwide outcry and a protracted diplomatic dispute between Bahrain, Thailand and Australia that raised questions about the neutrality of Interpol and the writ of Canberra’s refugee protections.
Araibi had expressed fear that he would be tortured and killed if he returned to…
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