‘Palestinian footballer to be released from prison’
Monday 18 June
Mahmoud al-Sarsak will be released from prison, according to his lawyer. The Palestinian professional footballer was on hunger strike for 92 days to protest his detention in an Israeli prison.
His lawyer Mohammed Jabbarine said: ‘An agreement has been reached. Mahmoud will end his hunger strike and in exchange he will be released on 10 July.’ On Tuesday, al-Sarsak will be transferred to a civilian hospital for treatment, but he will return later that same day to the prison’s clinic. On 10 July he will be released and allowed to return to the Gaza Strip. Al-Sarsak originates from Rafah in the Gaza Strip.
Jaberein said al-Sarsak signed the agreement during the lawyer’s visit to the prisoner on Monday. Israeli prison authorities asked al-Sarsak to eat something in their presence to ratify the deal, after which he took a piece of chocolate from the lawyer, Jaberein said.
‘This is great news’, reacted FIFPro’s secretary general Theo van Seggelen. ‘We hope that Mahmoud al-Sarsak will soon return back to full fitness. FIFPro is looking forward to the day he can play football again, as a free man.’
Al-Sarsak began his hunger strike on March 23rd to protest his detention and the lack of civil liberties. He was arrested on 22 July 2009 at a checkpoint when he was on his way to the West Bank for a match with his national team. The Palestinian player was interrogated for thirty days and then imprisoned without any trial or a precise legal charge. Family and friends were not allowed to visit him.
On June 8th, this year, FIFPro joined the protests of several civil rights movements. In the name of all professional footballers in the world, FIFPro demanded that Mahmoud al-Sarsak be released from prison. Several days later, FIFPro’s initiative was followed by amongst others FIFA president Joseph Blatter and UEFA’s president Michel Platini.
Al-Sarsak had joined the local soccer team in his Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip at 14, becoming the youngest footballer to play in the Palestine Liga A at the time.