Palestinian footballer Mohammed Al-Sarsak has ended his 95-day hunger strike after signing a written agreement with the Israeli prison service to be freed on 10 July. The news was given by the prisoner’s lawyer, Mohammed Jabareen.
The agreement was signed in Al-Ramla prison hospital, said Mr Jabareen. Between now and his release, he said, Al-Sarsak will be treated in a civilian hospital; his health has deteriorated considerably during the lengthy hunger strike. In addition, added the lawyer, “Mr Al-Sarsak has agreed not to resume his hunger strike before his release, under any pretext.”
Al-Sarsak’s health condition became critical 10 days ago as he had lost more than half of his body weight and, according to medical experts, he could have died at any time. “He refused to have milk and other vitamins necessary for the work of the body cells,” said Jabareen. “As such, the Israeli prison service agreed to restudy his case in return for resuming such essential intake.”
The prison service had proposed that the international footballer be released on 22 August in return for ending his hunger strike, but Al-Sarsak refused.
Israel has faced growing criticism and condemnation at home and abroad for its treatment of Al-Sarsak, especially when he started to suffer very poor health. Even though the authorities have softened their stance somewhat, he has agreed not to take part in any activities against Israel. If he does, he faces re-arrest.
Mohammed Al-Sarsak has been held as an “unlawful combatant” under a law which was introduced after the Israeli 2008/2009 war against the Gaza Strip. It allows the Israeli occupation authorities to arrest anyone from Gaza; if they feel that he represents any form of threat to Israel’s security; such detainees can be held for an unlimited period without trial.
Al-Sarsak is a footballer who played for the Rafah Services Club and the Palestinian national team. He was arrested on July 22, 2009 at the Eretz Crossing while on his way to join Balata Football Club in the occupied West Bank. He refused an Israeli offer to be exiled to Norway under the pretext of treatment for his poor health and insisted that he should be released to go back to his home town of Rafah.
According to Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights, Al-Sarsak was interrogated for being affiliated to Islamic Jihad, but no proof has ever been produced. He started his hunger strike on 19 March and has been in the prison hospital since mid-April.