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3 Years w/out Charge, 90 Days w/out Food: Palestinian Hunger Striker Released by Israeli

Never charged, aspiring soccer player returned to Gaza

Common Dreams staff

Palestinian soccer player Mahmoud Al-Sarsak waves to people upon his arrival in Gaza City on July 10, 2012. (Reuters/Mohammed Salem)

After more than 90 days on hunger strike and three years in Israeli custody without charge or trial, Palestinian soccer player Mahmoud al-Sarsak was released on Tuesday and returned to his home in the Gaza strip.

He was transferred to Shifa hospital in Gaza City for medical attention, where hundreds gathered to greet him. Al-Sarsak looked in weak but stable condition, according to a reporter with the Ma'an news agency. His ambulance was greeted by family and supporters, shouting “Victory, victory!” and “Freedom for the prisoners!”

The 25-year-old soccer player was arrested in July of 2009 while on his way from Gaza to sign on with a West Bank football team. Israel accused him publicly of being a 'terrorist' but never formally charged him or presented evidence of any crime. He began his hunger strike in April of this year -- along with hundreds of other prisoners -- to demand an end to his imprisonment and the Israeli policy of holding Palestinian prisoners without charge or trial.

He agreed to end his hunger strike on June 18 in exchange for his release.

Sarsak's protest attracted international attention, with world football governing body FIFA and rights group Amnesty International expressing concern over his ongoing detention and violations of his human rights.

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