Doctor: Al-Sarsak at Immediate Risk of Death

After 80 days on hunger strike, Mahmoud al-Sarsak is at immediate risk of death and must be hospitalized immediately, an independent doctor said Wednesday.

Until Wednesday, Israel’s prison service had refused to allow independent doctors to visit al-Sarsak, who is being held at Ramle prison clinic.

Physicians for Human Rights – Israel were able to send a doctor to visit al-Sarsak on Wednesday after petitioning an Israeli court for access.

The doctor also visited Akram al-Rekhawi, who has been on hunger strike for 56 days and suffered chronic illnesses prior to the strike.

Israel’s prison service would not allow the doctor to see the full medical files for al-Sarsak or al-Rekhawi "contrary to medical ethic and professional standards," PHRI and the Palestinian Council of Human Rights Organizations said in a joint statement.

Al-Sarsak, a professional soccer player, has experienced extreme loss of muscle tissue and drastic weight loss. The 25-year-old is frequently losing consciousness and suffers memory lapses, the doctor said. He is also at risk of pulse disruptions that are endangering his life.

A member of Palestine’s national soccer team, al-Sarsak has been imprisoned in Israel for nearly three years without charge. He is demanding his release.

Al-Rekhawi also suffers from drastic weight loss. "A combination of inflammation of prior chronic illnesses and the complications of hunger strike render hospitalization immediately necessary," the doctor said.

On Tuesday, Israel rejected al-Rekhawi’s demand for early release on medical grounds. He has been held in Ramle prison clinic since his arrest in 2004.

Al-Rekhawi often refuses treatment because he has a "deep distrust" of Israeli prison doctors, who have threatened to force-feed him and tried to force him to accept treatment, the rights groups said. The prison doctors refuse to recommend him for early release on medical grounds.
PHRI and the Palestinian Council of Human Rights Organizations called on the UN and the European Parliament to intervene given "the fact that Mahmoud al-Sarsak and Akram al-Rekhawi face imminent death."

They also called for immediate intervention to allow the hunger strikes unrestricted access to independent doctors, and to allow them family visits.

Al-Sarsak’s family, in Rafah in southern Gaza, have not been allowed to see him since his arrest, and he has never been allowed to phone them.

"The entire family and friends are afraid for Mahmoud’s life and the worry is killing us," al-Sarsak’s older brother, Emad, told Reuters on Tuesday.


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