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2 prisoners in Israeli jail still on hunger strike

May 22, 2012 5:36 P.M. (Updated: May 27, 2012 2:57 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Mahmoud al-Sarsak, a 25-year-old forward in Palestine's national soccer team, has been on hunger strike in an Israeli jail for over two months, officials said Tuesday.

Al-Sarsak and Akram al-Rekhawi, a diabetic who has refused food since April 17, are both being held in Ramle prison clinic.

Israeli Prison Service spokeswoman Sivan Weizman told Ma'an they were both in a stable condition and receiving all necessary medical treatment.

Al-Rekhawi's lawyer Fadi Ubeidat, who visited both detainees on Monday, said al-Rekhawi was in a critical condition.

Al-Rekhawi has vowed to remain on hunger strike until his next court hearing, scheduled for June 5, Ubeidat told Ma'an.

Physicians for Human Rights - Israel has asked to visit the detainees, but Israeli authorities have not approved the request, a representative said Tuesday, adding that the group would file a court petition for access.

PHRI has expressed concern that prison clinics are not equipped to treat long-term hunger strikers, who it says must be hospitalized.

Al-Rekhawi was in Ramle prison clinic prior to his hunger strike. He suffers from diabetes, asthma and cataracts and is protesting inadequate medical care.

Meanwhile, Mahmoud al-Sarsak has been on strike since March 19, the prisoner rights group Addameer says.

His lawyer Mohammad Jabarein says his weight has dropped from 65 kg to under 40 kg.

Israeli forces arrested al-Sarsak at the Erez crossing in July 2009. He was leaving the Gaza Strip after winning a year's contract to play for the Balata club in the West Bank.

Since then Israel has issued al-Sarsak consecutive six-month detention orders, without ever informing him or his lawyers of any charges.

He is the only prisoner in Israel being held under the "unlawful combatant" law, which is only applied to residents of Gaza and foreign nationals.

Al-Sarsak needs surgery in his right eye and Israel offered to release him to to Germany for treatment, his brother Imad told Ma'an.

Al-Sarsak rejected the deal, under which he would be forced to spend three months in Germany before being allowed to return home, his brother said.

Israel also offered to release al-Sarsak in August but he also rejected that offer, demanding to be freed immediately, his brother said.

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