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Refugee footballer thanks Australian leader for freedom

Refugee footballer thanks Australian leader for freedom

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A refugee soccer player who was detained in Thailand for three months under threat of extradition to Bahrain has come to the Australian capital to shake hands with the prime minister and say thank you for his freedom.

Hakeem al-Araibi flew to Canberra on Wednesday, only a day after arriving home in Melbourne on a flight from Bangkok where he had been detained since November.

He came to Parliament House on Thursday to watch a soccer match played by lawmakers, supporters and stars of the Australian national women's team.

The 25-year-old watched from the sidelines with Foreign Minister Marise Payne, explaining that his hamstrings remained too tight to play after weeks in a cell.

Payne and Prime Minister Scott Morrison had repeatedly lobbied the Thai government on al-Araibi's behalf.