Father of Soccer Player on Hunger Strike Appeals for Solidarity

The father of a Palestinian soccer player on hunger strike for 67 days in an Israeli jail urged the sporting community to "show solidarity" with his son.

Mahmoud al-Sarsak, a forward in Palestine’s national soccer team, has been detained without charge or trial since July 2009 when he was arrested while leaving Gaza for a match in the West Bank.

He went on hunger strike on March 19 demanding to be informed of the reasons for his detention or released. He is being held in Ramle prison clinic.

In a letter, al-Sarsak’s father said it was "unbearable" for his family to see Israel awarded the hosting of the UEFA under-21s soccer championship and preparing to join the London Olympics "while it routinely arrests, tortures, imprisons and kills Palestinians, including football players, without consequence."

"This is not fair play. Sports should show solidarity," he wrote.

He called on governments and international organizations to force Israel to comply with the basic standards of international law.

"In particular we ask fellow football players and athletes to speak out in support of Mahmoud – don’t be silent when Israeli cruelty and arbitrariness has destroyed the aspirations of a rising athlete and keeps thousands under inhumane conditions in their jails."

Al-Sarsak is being held under Israel’s "unlawful combatant" law, which allows Israel to detain people for unlimited periods without trial and without charge.

His lawyer Mohammad Jabarein said Tuesday that his weight had dropped from 65 kg to under 40 kg.


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