Asian football body says it worked 'tirelessly' to free Hakeem

Hong Kong - Asia's football body on Tuesday said it had worked "tirelessly" to secure the release of Bahraini refugee player Hakeem al-Araibi after coming under fire over the case.

The Asian Football Confederation said it was "extremely pleased" with Araibi's return to Australia after he was detained for more than two months in Thailand as he fought extradition to Bahrain.

"The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is extremely pleased with the decision of the courts in Thailand to order the release of Hakeem al-Araibi and allow him to return to Australia," the AFC said in a short statement. 

"The AFC has been working tirelessly with all the relevant stakeholders for several months and we thank each and everyone of those bodies for their support and commitment in bringing this matter to a positive end."

The AFC had been criticised for remaining quiet about Araibi, who was detained after arriving in Thailand for a holiday and feared torture and even death if he was sent back to Bahrain.

Araibi, who was sentenced in absentia in a case linked to anti-government protests in Bahrain, claimed he was being targeted for political reasons following his criticism of AFC president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, a member of Bahrain's ruling family.

The AFC's first public statement on Araibi came two months after his arrest, and said it was seeking a "solution" to the case rather than calling for his release.