Refugee soccer player happy he's now an Australian citizen

Hakeem al-Araiby, a former Bahraini international soccer player and refugee displays his certificate after becoming an Australian citizen, four weeks after escaping extradition to his homeland during a much-publicized detention in a Thai prison, in Melbourne, Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Al-Araiby, who fled Bahrain citing political repression, had lived under refugee status in Australia for more than a year until detained in Bangkok in November while on holiday. (David Crosling/AAP Image via AP)

SYDNEY — A former Bahraini soccer player and refugee has become an Australian citizen, after a detention in a Thai prison and an extradition request from his homeland raised international concern.

Hakeem al-Araiby told reporters he's "an Aussie now" and is happy to be safe.

The 25-year-old soccer player fled Bahrain citing political repression and had lived under refugee status in Australia for more than a year until he was detained in Bangkok in November while on holiday.

Bahrain wanted him returned to serve a prison sentence for a vandalism conviction he denies, but Thailand withdrew the extradition case last month after sustained pressure from the Australian government and soccer bodies.

He became an Australian citizen along with 200 other people at a ceremony in Melbourne on Tuesday.

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