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FIFPro, the voice of all professional footballers in the world, demands that Mahmoud al-Sarsak be released from prison. The Palestinian national team player has been imprisoned by the Israeli government for three years without any trial.

 

On 22 July 2009 al-Sarsak - who lives in Rafah in the Gaza Strip - was arrested at a checkpoint when he was on his way to the West Bank for a match with his national team. He was interrogated for thirty days and then imprisoned without any trial or a precise legal charge. Family and friends are not allowed to visit him. They do not know why he is being detained for already nearly three years.

 

According to the Israeli government he is an illegal combatant and therefore they can imprison him indefinitely.

 

To protest against his condition and lack of civil liberties, al-Sarsak currently is on a hunger strike. The 25-year old footballer has not eaten for 85 days and has lost approximately thirty kilos in weight. According to human rights organisation Addameer the situation of Mahmoud is critical.

 

FIFPro is deeply concerned about al-Sarsak’s health and about his imprisonment and therefore asks for his release from jail.

 

FIFPro is also very concerned about the situation of many other professional footballers in Palestine. Al-Sarsak is not the only player who is suffering from the actions of the Israeli government. There are stories of other players who have been harassed, arrested or even killed.

 

For many players in Palestine, there is no real freedom of movement. 

 

‘The freedom of movement is a fundamental right of every citizen’, says Philippe Piat, FIFPro’s vice-president and president of FIFPro Division Europe. ‘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 colours of their country. They cannot cross the border. They cannot visit their family. They are locked up. This is an  injustice.’

 

Last year FIFPro paid two visits to Palestine to visit the footballers, to talk about their problems and to talk about the establishment of a professional footballers’ association in Palestine.