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(Ismael Mohamad / United Press International)

World association of professional footballers FIFPro calls on Israel to release Mahmoud Sarsak

Update: Sarsak reportedly agrees to take milk while Israel reviews his case

Mahmoud Sarsak, the Palestinian prisoner who has been on hunger strike for more than 80 days, has reportedly agreed to take milk for 72 hours, easing his fast, while Israel reviews his case, Aljazeera reported late on Monday night:

A Palestinian official says a prisoner held by Israel has agreed to ease his hunger strike, and his life is no longer in danger.

Qadoura Fares, who heads a prisoners rights group, said Mahmoud Sarsak, 25, a former player with the Palestinian national football team, agreed to take milk on Monday after a more than 80 days of hunger strike.

Fares said Sarsak agreed to drink milk for the 72 hours it will take for Israel reviews the case.

Information about Sarsak’s condition is difficult to verify as Israel denies access to him by independent doctors and lawyers and does not permit him to contact or receive visits from his family.

World footballers association calls for immediate release of Mahmoud Sarsak

FIFPro, the association representing professional footballers in dozens of countries, called on Israel immediately to release Mahmoud Sarsak, a Palestinian football player who has been on hunger strike since March to protest his detention for three years without charge or trial by Israel.

FIFPro, the voice of all professional footballers in the world, demands that Mahmoud Sarsak be released from prison,” the statement begins.

The statement from FIFPro marks the first high-level attention to Sarsak’s case from professional football. However it is not a moment too soon given his grave health situation.

According to its website:

FIFPro is the worldwide representative organization for all professional players; more than 50,000 footballers in total. FIFPro exists since 1965 and currently has 46 members, 9 candidate members and 9 observers.

Israel is one of FIFPro’s 46 member countries.

The organization also said it is “very concerned about the situation of many other professional footballers in Palestine. Sarsak is not the only player who is suffering from the actions of the Israeli government. There are stories of other players who have been harassed, arrested or even killed.”

Sarsak was detained by Israel as he traveled from his home in Gaza to play in the West Bank. FIFPro notes:

For many players in Palestine, there is no real freedom of movement.

‘The freedom of movement is a fundamental right of every citizen’, says Philippe Piat, FIFPro’s vice-president and president of FIFPro Division Europe. ‘It is also written down in the FIFA Regulations that players must be allowed to play for the national team of their country.’

‘But actually for some footballers it is impossible to defend the colours of their country. They cannot cross the border. They cannot visit their family. They are locked up. This is an injustice.’

Israel blocking information about Sarsak’s condition

As the time since Sarsak’s strike exceeds 84 days, Israel has blocked information about his condition.

Yesterday, Sarsak was reportedly moved to a civilian hospital before being sent back to Ramle prison.

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Israeli authorities today claimed Sarsak had ended his strike, but those claims were impossible to independently verify. AFP reported:

Israel Prisons Service said on Monday that a Palestinian prisoner who has been on hunger strike for more than 80 days, had ended his protest, but Palestinian sources, including his lawyer, denied the claim.

“(Mahmud) Sarsak ended his hunger strike,” IPS spokeswoman Sivan Weizman told AFP, saying he had taken the decision to end his fast after consulting his lawyer and the prison administration. But Sarsak’s family in Gaza, as well as the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club in Ramallah, denied that he had ended his strike.

And his lawyer, Mohammed Jabarin, said he had no comment on the Israeli claim.

Israel denies legal process while attacking victim in media

As international concern has increased, so has high-level propaganda from Israeli government officials. As he has done with other hunger strikers, Israeli spokesman Ofir Gendelman began making lurid charges against Sarsak on Twitter. As many Twitter users pointed out to Gendelman, if there were a shred of evidence, Israel should present evidence and provide an internationally recognized legal process.

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FIFPro Statement

FIFPro: release Mahmoud Sarsak from prison

Friday 8 June

FIFPro, the voice of all professional footballers in the world, demands that Mahmoud Sarsak be released from prison. The Palestinian national team player has been imprisoned by the Israeli government for three years without any trial.

On 22 July 2009 Sarsak - who lives in Rafah in the Gaza Strip - was arrested at a checkpoint when he was on his way to the West Bank for a match with his national team. He was interrogated for thirty days and then imprisoned without any trial or a precise legal charge. Family and friends are not allowed to visit him. They do not know why he is being detained for already nearly three years.

According to the Israeli government he is an illegal combatant and therefore they can imprison him indefinitely.

To protest against his condition and lack of civil liberties, Sarsak currently is on a hunger strike. The 25-year old footballer has not eaten for 85 days and has lost approximately thirty kilos in weight. According to human rights organisation Addameer the situation of Mahmoud is critical.

FIFPro is deeply concerned about Sarsak’s health and about his imprisonment and therefore asks for his release from jail.

FIFPro is also very concerned about the situation of many other professional footballers in Palestine. Sarsak is not the only player who is suffering from the actions of the Israeli government. There are stories of other players who have been harassed, arrested or even killed.

For many players in Palestine, there is no real freedom of movement.

‘The freedom of movement is a fundamental right of every citizen’, says Philippe Piat, FIFPro’s vice-president and president of FIFPro Division Europe. ‘It is also written down in the FIFA Regulations that players must be allowed to play for the national team of their country.’

‘But actually for some footballers it is impossible to defend the colours of their country. They cannot cross the border. They cannot visit their family. They are locked up. This is an injustice.’

Last year FIFPro paid two visits to Palestine to visit the footballers, to talk about their problems and to talk about the establishment of a professional footballers’ association in Palestine.

Comments

The password in these hunger strikes is Jawad Bolus. He comes at the moment when the strikers are in very bad situations and tries to negotiate with them instead of forcing IPS to release them unconditionally.