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Refugee footballer freed by Thailand returns to Australia

CANBERRA, Australia - A refugee soccer player has returned home to a celebrity welcome in Australia hours after the threat of extradition to Bahrain was lifted three months after he was detained in Thailand.

Hundreds of supporters carrying welcome signs were waiting at Melbourne Airport on Tuesday when Hakeem al-Araibi arrived on a commercial flight direct from Bangkok.

Thailand had come under great pressure from Australia’s government, sporting bodies and human rights groups to free Hakeem al-Araibi so he could return home to Australia, where he has refugee status and plays semi-professional soccer.

Former Australia national team captain Craig Foster has been leading the campaign for al-Araibi’s release. Foster said he could not sleep until he received word from Bangkok that al-Araibi’s flight had left.
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