Foster fought tirelessly to keep the campaign for the Pascoe Vale footballer's release from a Bangkok prison at the front of the mainstream media.

The SBS presenter travelled the world drumming up support from world leaders and FIFA for the refugee's plight after he was seized at Bangkok Airport by Thai authorities in November.

An Interpol bungle allowed an arrest warrant to be issued for Al-Araibi despite him being given political asylum by Australia while he awaits Australian citizenship.

Al-Araibi was imprisoned and tortured by Bahrain after he protested against the government. He fled to Australia in 2014 but was assured by the Australian government that it was safe for him to go on his honeymoon last year.

Since then he has been locked up in Bangkok whole an international row erupted over his arrest with Bahrain demanding his extradition to face new charges.

He was brought to court in shackles in court last week and remanded in custody until April while the row continued, but was freed unexpectedly last night after Bahrain reluctantly dropped their extradition order - but warned he would still be arrested if he ever returned there again.

He flew home to his wife and friends in Melbourne overnight and was greeted by Foster in the airport at lunchtime.

As a crowd of well-wishers sang You'll Never Walk Alone, Foster hugged Hakeem and added: "I think this probably the most famous young man in Australia right now!

"A very courageous young man, a human rights defender who we are so proud on behalf of all of Australia to have fought so hard to bring back home."

Hakeem faced the press to speak for the first time since his ordeal began in November ā€“ and immediately hailed the work of Foster in freeing him.

"I want to thank Australia ā€“ it is amazing to see all the people here," he said. "I want to thank this man who cares so much.

"I also want to thank Australian media, Australian government, all the human rights people, all the people who supported me.

"I just want to thank you. I will be more strong for this country. Australia is my country.

"I don't have citizenship yet but my country is Australia. I love Australia."

His wife issued a statement through Amnesty International adding her thanks.

"My heart is now full with gratitude," she said. "Just so thankful that these tears are falling out of relief and joy.

"Iā€™m especially grateful for all people who supported Hakeem around the world. Finally this nightmare has ended, and I am very happy to see everyone happy with me at this moment.

"Thank you all, you have given me big support to be strong. I love you all and thank you from the heart. Well done. We did it."