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Bahrain refugee footballer to become Aussie citizen: report

Melbourne (AFP) – A refugee footballer who spent over two months in Bangkok detention under threat of extradition to his native Bahrain will soon become an Australian citizen, he told local media Thursday.

Hakeem al-Araibi said he will formally become an Australian at a ceremony in Melbourne on Tuesday, after completing a citizenship test.

“I do the test, I pass the test, I am 90 percent a citizen. One more appointment, I will be a citizen,” 25-year-old Araibi told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald newspapers.

“The ceremony (is) next week, because I passed the test.”

Araibi’s return to Melbourne last month ended a tense diplomatic standoff between Thailand, Australia and authorities in Bahrain — where he is accused of offences linked to 2011 Arab Spring pro-democracy protests.

His detention by Thai authorities while on honeymoon had sparked worldwide outcry and intense lobbying from sports stars and the Australian government, which had granted him asylum.

Araibi has since resumed training with his second-tier club Pascoe Vale and has been outspoken out against rights abuses in Bahrain, where he claims he is still targeted for political reasons.

Last week, writing in The Guardian newspaper, he called on Formula One fans to boycott this year’s Grand Prix in Bahrain, claiming that authoritarian states were using sports events to raise their profile.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison had told Araibi on his return from detention that his citizenship was not “too far away”.

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