Mahmoud Sarsak released to hero’s welcome in Gaza

Palestinian soccer star, prisoner and longest hunger striker in Palestinian history, Mahmoud Sarsak, was freed today in Gaza to a hero’s welcome. Sarsak, who engaged in a 96-day hunger strike, is a Palestinian soccer player who had travelled to the West Bank to join the national team when he was seized by Israeli military forces. He was held for 3 years under the so-called “Unlawful Combatants Law,” an analogue to administrative detention for Palestinians from Gaza, where no charges or trial are brought against the accused Palestinian. As the only prisoner held under this law, the agreement ending the mass prisoner hunger strike of May 14 did not address his case. He continued his hunger strike, drawing international attention from FIFPro, the professional football players’ association, and FIFA, the international federation governing soccer around the world. He agreed to end his hunger strike in exchange for a signed agreement that he would be released on July 10.  On July 10, 2012, Sarsak returned home in Gaza to a hero’s welcome.