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Amnesty: Release or hospitalize hunger striker

June 14, 2012 10:57 P.M. (Updated: June 16, 2012 8:21 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian soccer player on hunger strike for three months should be admitted to hospital or released, Amnesty International said Thursday.

Mahmoud al-Sarsak was detained in 2009 and is being held under a form of detention that allows Israel to jail "unlawful combatants" without charge and based on secret evidence.

“After almost three years in detention, the Israeli authorities have had ample opportunity to charge al-Sarsak with a recognizable criminal offence and bring him to trial,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East director.

“They have failed to do so, and instead repeatedly affirmed his detention order on the basis of secret information withheld from him and his lawyer.”

The detainee, a member of the Palestinian national soccer team, has refused food since March 19 in protest of his continued detention without charge or trial. Al-Sarsak began taking milk this week in order to prolong his life until a hearing could be held on his continued detention, his lawyer told Ma'an.

His case was to be reviewed by an Israeli court on Thursday, but the outcome of the judicial review was not immediately clear. Israeli authorities made no announcements and calls to al-Sarsak's lawyer went unanswered all day. The prisoners rights group Addameer said it did not know of any developments.

Amnesty International and other groups say the detainee has been denied proper access to medical treatment repeatedly during his 88-day hunger strike. For someone on the verge of death, this amounts to inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of Israel’s international obligations, the group maintains.

“The specialized medical care al-Sarsak urgently needs is only available in a civilian hospital and he must be admitted to one or released so that he can receive it,” Luther said. ”Israel should repeal the Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law, which lacks minimal safeguards for detainees’ rights.”

According to the UK-based group, al-Sarsak's family in Gaza, who have not seen their son since his arrest or spoken to him since he went on hunger strike, fear he will die in detention.

They urged the international community to intervene to save his life.
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