ZURICH: Sepp Blatter has urged Israeli FA chief Avi Luzon to act over FIFA’s “grave concern and worry” about hunger strike footballer Mahmoud Sarsak and other players detained by security authorities writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

FIFA president Blatter told Luzon in a fax from Zurich that concerns had been prompted by protests from the Palestine FA and international players’ union FIFpro plus media reports.

Blatter noted that “without the apparent right of a due process” several Palestine players had been “illegally detained” by Israeli authorities. He added: “FIFA urgently calls on the IFA to draw the attention of the Israel competent authorities to the present matter with the aim of ensuring the physical integrity of the concerned plaers as well as their right for due process.

“In view of the alarming situation apparently faced by the player Mahmoud Sarsak we kindly ask the IFA to act with the utmost urgency.”

Sarsak has been reported as in a serious condition as a result of an 89-day hunger strike in protest at his three-year detention without charge. His lawyer has said that he has started to drink some milk so as to be able to participate in a judicial review appeal later this week.

Sarsak’s hunger strike is believed to be the longest in the history of Palestinian prisoners.

Until Wednesday, Israel’s prison service had refused to allow independent doctors to visit him in the Ramle prison clinic. A representative of Physicians for Human Rights International was then allowed in after petitioning an Israeli court. Sarsak was later transferred to Assaf Harofeh Hospital in south Tel Aviv as his health deteriorated.

The PHRI doctor reported that Sarsak had experienced extreme loss of muscle tissue and drastic weight loss, that he was losing consciousness frequently and suffering memory lapses.

PHRI and the Palestinian Council of Human Rights Organizations have called on the United Nations and the European Parliament to intervene given “the fact that Mahmoud al-Sarsak [and another prisoner on hunger strike] face imminent death.”

Sarsak was arrested on July 22, 2009, while travelling between his home in Gaza and the West Bank. He was held on charges of being an unlawful combatant linked to the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine. He began his hunger strike on March 19, 2012.

Sarsak’s family, in Rafah in southern Gaza, have not been allowed to see him and he has not been allowed to phone them.

Over the past 18 months both Blatter and Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, have visited both Palestine and Israel and sought to ease Israeli-directed restrictions on travel rights for Palestinian athletes both locally and internationally.

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