RAMALLAH: A jailed Palestinian footballer whose plight had mobilised world sports opinion, has ended his three-month hunger strike in exchange for early release, according to his lawyer.
Midfielder Mahmoud al-Sarsak had been detained by Israeli security forces for three years without charge of trial. Israeli officials had accuse him of being involved in the militant group, Islamic Jihad, allegations he had always denied.
Lawyer Mohammed Jabarin has told news organisations that an agreement has been reached with the Israeli prison where Sarsak is being held for him to be released on 10 July. In return, he will start eating again and will be transferred to a civilian hospital for treatment on Tuesday.
The 25-year-old started his hunger strike on 23 March. He briefly paused in April after rights groups said he was close to death. Recently he has started taking vitamins, sugar and milk in preparation for a possible appeal court appearance.
The Palestinian Football Association has urged UEFA to strip Israel of the right to host European football’s under-21 championship next year because of its continuing restrictions on the travel of Palestinian players both domestically and internationally.
In addition to Sarsak, Olympic squad goalkeeper Omar Abu Rois and Ramallah player Mohammed Nimr are being held in Israel without trial.
Earlier this month world football federation FIFA urged the Israeli FA to bring pressure to bear on the security authorities.
Sarsak has been held under Israel’s “Unlawful Combatants Law”, through which Israel claims the right to detain indefinitely, without charge or trial, those suspected of involvement in organisations or activities hostile to the state. Suspects’ cases are reviewed by a court every six months.
It has stated that Sarsak was arrested based on information that he was a member of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, had planted bombs and recruited and trained other militants.
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