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Palestinian Soccer Player Nears Death

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    Palestinian Soccer Player Nears Death Karin Friedemann The Muslim Observer While President Obama awarded Israeli president Shimon Perez with a medal last week,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 22, 2012
      Palestinian Soccer Player Nears Death
      Karin Friedemann
      The Muslim Observer

      While President Obama awarded Israeli president Shimon Perez with a
      medal last week, world outrage about Israel's treatment of
      Palestinians has escalated exponentially as professional footballer
      Mahmoud al Sarkar nears death from his hunger strike of over 90 days
      in protest of his illegal incarceration. Thousands of other
      Palestinian prisoners, including 20 children, have joined his hunger
      strike. Despite a media blackout, the word has been spreading globally
      through Facebook and Twitter.

      With Sarkar, Akram Al-Rikhawi, a prisoner for 8 years on his 57th day
      of hunger strike, wrote in a letter to the world: "This is an urgent
      and final distress call from captivity, slow and programmed death
      inside the cells of so-called Ramle Prison hospital, that you know
      that your sons and brothers are still struggling against death and you
      pay no attention to them and do not remember their cause...You are the
      ones able to support us for victory in our battle."

      Sarsak, a 25 year old from Rafah, in Gaza, was arrested at a
      checkpoint while on his way to the West Bank to play with the
      Palestinian national team in 2009. Since then, he has been detained
      without charge or trial, and has not been allowed to see his family.
      He is being held under the Unlawful Combatant Law, which allows Israel
      to detain Palestinians from Gaza indefinitely without charge or
      criminal proceedings being brought to court. As with every other
      Palestinian prisoner held by Israel, Mahmoud was transferred to a
      prison outside of the Occupied Territories. This is illegal under
      Articles 49 and 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits
      the transfer of prisoners from an occupied territory to that of the
      occupying state. 2,000 prisoners, according to Palestinian prisoners'
      rights group Addameer, are held as administrative detainees without a
      chance of trial.

      UN Special Envoy to the Occupied Territories, Richard Falk, has called
      for the 25 year old's release, saying that 'he has suffered
      immensely.' Sarkar has lost 33 percent of his body weight. After three
      months without food, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel issued a
      warning that he could die at any moment.

      There are huge demonstrations expected in Scotland on Saturday, where
      Israel's women's soccer team is to play against Scotland. Mick Napier,
      chairman of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC),
      explains: "There should be no business as usual for Israel's national
      teams while Israel denies Palestinians the same privileges."

      Meanwhile, dozens of professional athletes have been rallying to
      Sarkar's cause, sending out twitters to fans. "In the name of sporting
      solidarity, justice and human rights, we declare our support for
      Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak. As European sportsmen, we
      believe that every person has the right to a fair and independent
      trial," wrote Marcelo del Pozo, an Argentinian player for Spain.

      Seville striker Frédéric Kanouté posted on his website: "In the name
      of civil liberties, justice, and basic human rights, we call for the
      release of Mahmoud Sarsak." Kanouté gained international fame when he
      lifted his team jersey to reveal a shirt with the word
      "Palestine"after scoring a goal during a league match at the height of
      Israel's January 2009 attack on Gaza, an action for which he was fined

      Other supporters include Nicolas Anelka, former player for Arsenal,
      Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Real Madrid, and French sailor Jo Le
      Guen. Prominent figures such as former France and Manchester United
      midfielder Eric Cantona, film director Ken Loach and American
      philosopher and activist Noam Chomsky have urged Israeli authorities
      to release Sarsak. Protests under the banner "Let Sarsak Live" took
      place in London's Trafalgar Square last week to raise awareness of his
      ordeal. In a letter to The Guardian, former UK Member of Parliament
      John Austin called on the Union of European Football Associations
      (UEFA) to "reconsider its decision to hold its under-21 championship
      in Israel in 2013."

      Amnesty International also proclaimed that Sarsak, "who is at risk of
      death after more than 90 days on hunger strike in protest against his
      detention by Israel should immediately be admitted to a civilian
      hospital or released so that he can receive life-saving medical care."

      Philippe Piat, vice-president of FIFPro, the global organization which
      represents professional footballers said, "freedom of movement is a
      fundamental right of every citizen. 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 colors of their country. They cannot cross
      the border. They cannot visit their family. They are locked up. This
      is an injustice.'

      As the Israeli Asaf Harofe Hospital announced that Sarkar's death
      could come within hours, the Fédération Internationale de Football
      Association (FIFA) became heavily involved in pressing the Israelis
      for Sarkar's release. On June 20, Mahmoud Sarsak rejected an offer
      from negotiators and lawyers to be released to Norway or Sweden.
      Mahmoud wants to be free to go to his home in the Gaza Strip only.

      Gaza TV News reported on June 21: "After 91 days on Hunger Strike,
      Mahmoud Sarsak is to be released on July 17th. We will post further
      news as it reaches us." This report has not yet been confirmed, so it
      is vital that the public continue writing letters and making phone
      calls of support.
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