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Episode 49: The Story of Hakeem Al-Araibi

Bahraini soccer player with Australian refugee status Hakeem Al-Araibi walks while escorted by Thai prison officers following an extradition hearing.

Australian-based refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi has arrived back in Australia after his release from a Bangkok prison.

SBS Italian news, with a slower pace. This is Slow Italian, Fast Learning, the very best of the week’s news, read at a slower pace, with Italian and English text available.

Italian

È la fine di un’odissea che Hakeem Al-Araibi non dimenticherà mai.

Il 25enne calciatore è ritornato a casa sua, a Melbourne, due mesi e mezzo dopo il suo arresto a Bangkok.

Lì ha dovuto affrontare i primi passi di un caso di estradizione, istigato dal Bahrein, che voleva riportarlo in patria per fargli scontare una condanna a 10 anni per vandalismo.

Hakeem Al-Araibi nega le accuse e insiste che sarebbe stato torturato in caso di estradizione.

L'ex Socceroo Craig Foster è stato il volto pubblico della campagna per la liberazione di Al-Araibi e ha dichiarato alla ABC che è stato importante rimanere positivi.

"We had to believe. We weren't sure, because the forces that were keeping him there were really extraordinary. There was the politics of sport, and of football, which was quite incredible. Bahrain have some really powerful allies in that area, who have immense amounts of financial strength in the game right now."

La scarcerazione di Hakeem Al-Araibi conclude un delicato periodo diplomatico per i governi di Thailandia, Australia e Bahrein.

Craig Foster ha lodato il primo ministro Scott Morrison e la ministra degli esteri Marise Payne per i loro sforzi nell'aiutare Al-Araibi a ritornare in Australia.

Il primo ministro, a sua volta, ha ringraziato i governi di Thailandia e Bahrein.

"I particularly, again, want to thank the Thai government for working with us closely and the Bahrain government for our interactions with them as well and we have excellent relations with both countries but the best news of all (is) Hakeem will be in Australia this afternoon and I think that's something we give great thanks for."

Hakeem Al-Araibi era stato arrestato a Bangkok il 27 novembre con un mandato di cattura in codice rosso emesso dall'Interpol su richiesta del Bahrein.

Era fuggito dal nativo Bahrein quattro anni fa ed aveva ottenuto lo status di rifugiato in Australia.

Il calciatore ha dichiarato di essere stato torturato per essersi opposto al governo del Bahrein e che le accuse di vandalismo, che hanno portato ad una condanna di 10 anni, sono inventate.

Le leggi internazionali proibiscono il cosiddetto refoulement, cioè la riconsegna del rifugiato al paese dal quale è fuggito.

Nonostante ciò, una volta che il tribunale ha iniziato la procedura, vi era il timore che Hakeem Al-Araibi potesse restare in prigione in Thailandia per un anno e che sarebbe stato estradato in ogni caso nel Bahrein.

Fatima Yazbek, del Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, ha dichiarato che è stato un periodo lungo e impegnativo.

"I’m speechless, there are no words which can describe our feelings at the moment. We were working on Hakeem’s case for more than 70 days. We were tense because the court says Hakeem would stay there until August. And today, tonight, surprisingly they said that Hakeem won’t be extradited to Bahrain, instead he’ll fly to Melbourne."

Hakeem Al-Araibi gioca a calcio per il Pascoe Vale, un club nella State League del Victoria.

La scorsa settimana, il club ha twittato di averlo iscritto nella lista dei giocatori della prossima stagione, augurandosi che potesse ritornare in tempo per giocare.

Il suo caso ha attirato attenzione a livello internazionale, con giocatori da tutto il mondo che hanno espresso il proprio sostegno per il movimento Save Hakeem, una circostanza che secondo Al-Araibi gli ha dato forza durante il suo periodo in carcere.

Hakeem sarà ora in Australia in tempo per l'inizio della stagione del Pascoe Vale.

Il presidente del clu Lou Tona ha dichiarato che il ritorno di Al-Araibi mostra la forza della comunità calcistica.

"We didn’t choose to be involved in this, but it’s been unbelievable to be involved in this, it’s pretty liberating. It’s great to see so many unbelievable in this world, people who we never knew before hand, that have poured their heart and soul out to save Hakeem. I’m sure he’s going to be very thankful when he comes back but what we’ve managed to achieve, everyone, the whole football community and Australia has been unbelievable."

English

It's the end of an ordeal Hakeem Al-Araibi will never forget.

The 25-year-old footballer is returning to his home in Melbourne, two and a half months after he was detained in Bangkok.

There, he faced the first steps of an extradition hearing, with his former home Bahrain hoping to have him sent back to face a 10-year jail term for a vandalism offence.

Hakeem Al-Araibi denies the charges and insists he would have been tortured if he was extradited.

Former Socceroo Craig Foster was the public face of the campaign to have Al-Araibi released, and he's told the ABC it was important to stay hopeful.

"We had to believe. We weren't sure, because the forces that were keeping him there were really extraordinary. There was the politics of sport, and of football, which was quite incredible. Bahrain have some really powerful allies in that area, who have immense amounts of financial strength in the game right now."

Hakeem Al-Araibi's release brings to an end a delicate period of diplomacy between the governments of Thailand, Australia and Bahrain.

Craig Foster praised Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne for their efforts in helping secure Al-Araibi's return to Australia.

Prime Minister Morrison, in turn, thanked the governments of Thailand and Bahrain.

"I particularly, again, want to thank the Thai government for working with us closely and the Bahrain government for our interactions with them as well and we have excellent relations with both countries but the best news of all (is) Hakeem will be in Australia this afternoon and I think that's something we give great thanks for."

Hakeem Al-Araibi was first detained in Bangkok on November 27th under a red notice issued by Interpol at the request of Bahrain.

He'd fled his native Bahrain four years ago and was eventually granted refugee status in Australia.

He says he had been tortured for speaking out against the Bahraini government, and that the vandalism charges and subsequent 10-year jail sentence were for a fabricated offence.

International law prohibits refoulement - that is, forcibly returning a refugee to the country from which they fled.

Nevertheless, once the court proceedings were underway, there was fear Hakeem Al-Araibi could be detained in Thailand for up to a year and even then, possibly, extradited to Bahrain anyway.

Fatima Yazbek, from the Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, says it's been a long road.

"I’m speechless, there are no words which can describe our feelings at the moment. We were working on Hakeem’s case for more than 70 days. We were tense because the court says Hakeem would stay there until August. And today, tonight, surprisingly they said that Hakeem won’t be extradited to Bahrain, instead he’ll fly to Melbourne."

Hakeem Al-Araibi plays football for Pascoe Vale, a club side in Victoria's state league.

Only last week, the club tweeted that it had registered him for the coming season, saying it was hopeful he would be returned in time to play.

His case drew worldwide attention, with footballers all over the world expressing their support for the Save Hakeem movement, something which Al-Araibi says gave him strength during his time in detention.

He will now be back in Australia in time to start the season at Pascoe Vale.

The club's chairman, Lou Tona, says Mr Al-Araibi's return shows the strength of the football community.

"We didn’t choose to be involved in this, but it’s been unbelievable to be involved in this, it’s pretty liberating. It’s great to see so many unbelievable in this world, people who we never knew before hand, that have poured their heart and soul out to save Hakeem. I’m sure he’s going to be very thankful when he comes back but what we’ve managed to achieve, everyone, the whole football community and Australia has been unbelievable."

Report by  Matt Connellan         

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