Fri, Jun 15, 2012 - Page 19 News List

FIFA boss writes to Israel over jailed soccer players

Reuters, ZURICH, SWITZERLAND

Palestinian girls hold posters depicting soccer player Mahmoud Sarsak, who is protesting his alleged illegal detention by Israel, during a rally in his support in the West Bank town of Al-Bireh near Ramallah on Wednesday.

Photo: Reuters

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has expressed grave concern over reports that several Palestinian players have been illegally detained in Israel.

Blatter had written to the Israel Football Association and asked it to draw the attention of Israeli authorities to the matter, FIFA said in a statement.

“FIFA President Joseph Blatter expressed today grave concern and worry about the alleged illegal detention of Palestine football players,” the statement said.

“The reports FIFA received state that, in apparent violation of their integrity and human rights and without the apparent right of a trial, several Palestinian football players have allegedly been illegally detained by Israeli authorities,” it said. “In particular, the mentioned reports refer to the Palestinian player Mahmoud Sarsak, whose health is in a very delicate state due to the fact that he has been undergoing a hunger strike for approximately 90 days in protest of his alleged illegal detention.”

FIFA said it had heard about the situation through correspondence with the Palestine Football Association, media reports and the world players’ union FIFPro.

An Israel Football Association spokeswoman said Blatter’s letter had been received and a response would be delivered to FIFA “in the coming days.”

FIFPro said that Sarsak, of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, was arrested at a checkpoint while on his way to the West Bank for a match with his national team in 2009.

He was interrogated for 30 days, imprisoned and denied visits from his friends or family, FIFPro said.

FIFPro said that his weight had dropped to 30kg following his hunger strike.

Sarsak’s current term of detention term ends on Aug. 22, but there is no guarantee that it would not be renewed for a further six months, as it has been before, his family and lawyer said.

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