Israel faces protests at Scottish football match 16Jun12 June 16, 2012

Al-Akhbar  English  -   15 June 2012

Hundreds of Palestinian supporters in Scotland plan to disrupt an international football match against Israel in solidarity with a detained Palestinian footballer on hunger strike.

Professional footballer Mahmoud Sarsak has been refusing food for 90 days over his three-year detention without trial in an Israeli jail.

On Thursday, football legend Eric Cantona and left-wing academic Noam Chomsky were among the signatories to a letter demanding Israeli authorities release or charge him immediately.

Israel are due to play Scotland in a women’s Euro qualifier on Saturday, but hundreds of campaigners are expected to attend the game and highlight Sarsak’s plight.

The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) and other pro-Palestinian groups are expected to raise Palestinian flags inside the stadium in a protest that has been given the go-ahead by police.

Mick Napier, chair of the SPSC, said the protest aimed to highlight the Israeli oppression of Palestinian sportsmen.

“We will make a vigorous protest inside the stadium and let the Israeli team know that any institutional link to the Israeli state is not welcome in Scotland,” he told Al-Akhbar.

Napier said Sarsak’s hunger strike was a crucial form of resistance to Israeli oppression and added that similar campaigns against the South African rugby team had undermined the apartheid regime.

“He epitomizes the cruelty and the oppression of not just Palestinian footballers, Palestinian sportspeople, but the entirety of Palestinian society under the control of the Israeli regime.”

“I am a graduate of the campaign against the South African Springboks that played an auxiliary role in the freedom struggle in South Africa.”

Sarsak is held under Israel’s Unlawful Combatants Law, which enables the country to hold Palestinians from Gaza without trial effectively indefinitely.

Leading human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have condemned Israel’s detention policies as a violation of international humanitarian laws.

Palestinian football leaders had recently urged UEFA to remove Israel as the 2013 European Under-21 Championship host nation for jailing Palestinian national team players without trial.

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