“In the name of sporting solidarity”: Top European athletes call for Israel to release Mahmoud Sarsak 17Jun12 June 17, 2012

by Ali Abunimah  -   The Electronic Intifada   -   16 June 2012

“In the name of sporting solidarity, justice and human rights, we declare our support for Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak. As European sportsmen, we believe that every person has the right to a fair and independent trial.”

This call from two dozen top European athletes, including Seville striker Frédéric Kanouté, came as international concern continued to mount over the life of Sarsak, 25, who began a hunger strike in March against his prolonged detention without charge or trial by Israel.

Sarsak was arrested three years ago as he traveled from Gaza to the West Bank to play a match and since then has been banned even from seeing members of his family.

“In the name of civil liberties, justice, and basic human rights, we call for the release of Mahmoud Sarsak,” added the athletes’ statement posted on Kanouté’s website.

KanoutĂ© gained international fame when he lifted his team jersey to reveal a shirt with the word “Palestine”, after scoring a goal during a league match at the height of Israel’s January 2009 attack on Gaza, an action for which he was fined $4,000.

French-born KanoutĂ©, who played for Seville until last month, has also played for Tottenham Hotspur and Mali’s national team, and been named African Footballer of the Year.

Other signatories include Nicolas Anelka, former player for Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Real Madrid, and French sailor Jo Le Guen.

Last week, football legend and anti-racism campaigner Eric Cantona, FIFA president Sepp Blatter and FIFPro, the world association of professional footballers, all called on Israel to free Sarsak.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority run Palestinian Football Association has called on UEFA to revoke its decision to allow Israel to host the 2013 Under 21 tournament. In a letter to The Guardian, former UK Member of Parliament John Austin also called on UEFA to “reconsider its decision to hold its under-21 championship in Israel in 2013.”

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