Free Mahmoud Sarsak

The plight of Mahmoud Sarsak should make us think about what we mean by justice.

Is it right that young Palestinians are locked up, as prisoners, without a trial?

Internment, unlawful combatants, administrative detention or lettre de cachet.

Many countries do it, the UK, the US, Ireland and even France.

Whatever you call it, locking people up without trial has many names and it is wrong.

France 24 explains Mahmoud Sarsak’s difficulties:

“AFP – In 2009, Mahmud Sarsak set out from Gaza to sign on with a West Bank football team, but what he thought was the start of a dream career quickly spiralled into a nightmare.

Three years later, the young athlete is lying in a bed in an Israeli prison clinic after spending more than 80 days without eating in protest at his being held without charge.

With his case drawing more and more attention, the Israel Prison Authority on Monday told AFP that Sarsak had ended his strike.

But the Ramallah-based Palestinian Prisoners’ Club denied the claim, as did his family, although his lawyer Mohammed Jabarin admitted Sarsak was “drinking milk” in a move which he said did not amount to breaking the strike.

Sarsak, 25, was born in Gaza and dreamed of becoming a professional footballer. As a teenager, he played several times for the Palestinian national team in Europe and the Middle East, attracting favourable attention from coaches.

So when he set out for the West Bank on July 22, 2009, he felt he had a promising career ahead of him.

But he never even got there.

As he tried to pass the Erez crossing into Israel, Sarsak was arrested and has been held ever since under Israel’s so-called unlawful combatants law, which allows suspects to be held without charge under a procedure similar to administrative detention.

Israeli officials have called Sarsak an “Islamic Jihad terrorist who planned attacks and bombings,” but have not made public any charges or evidence against him.

“They want to kill my Mahmud,” says his mother Umm al-Abed, sitting outside a solidarity tent by International Committee of the Red Cross headquarters in Gaza City. “Why isn’t the world doing anything?”

FIFA on Tuesday called on the Israeli Football Association to make contact with the relevant Israeli authorities to secure the release of Sarsak and other players it said were being held.

“In a letter to the Israel Football Association, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter expressed today grave concern and worry about the alleged illegal detention of Palestine football players,” a FIFA statement said.

Sarsak began his hunger strike on March 23 as a wave of similar protests swept through the population of Palestinians being held in Israeli jails. “

Habeas Corpus should apply to young Palestinians, Israelis or those locked up by Kings and despots across the Middle East.

B’Tselem Statistics on Administrative Detention.

How Bahrain held its opponents without habeas corpus for weeks and months.

2 comments

  1. The presumption behind this post is that the gentleman in question is an innocent victim of an unfair process but the article posted doesn’t get even close to justifying such a conclusion.

    1) APF are not an objective source of news; rather this article demonstrates what is wrong with much of contemporary journalism. No quotes from Israeli officials appear in the article and there is not even the suggestion that an Israeli position was sought. No balanced person could read this article and conclude that this individual is an innocent victim, or indeed that he is guilty of something. At most we can conclude that he might be such, or he might be being held for other reasons. No evidence is offered for either conclusion but it is evidence which would be required to support either conclusion. After all, Being good at football does not preclude membership (active or otherwise) in a terrorist organisation and the fact that his mother doesn’t believe that her lovely son is a criminal is simply irrelevant.

    2) We know that there are terrorists who seek to harm Israel and Israelis. I mean someone organises and perpetrates the rocket attacks, bombings, shooting attacks, etc. We also know that sometimes revealing evidence may compromise intelligence sources, hence the need for administrative detention. What we lack is evidence, or even a plausible explanation of why the Israeli state is incarcerating this individual when there is no reason to do so, the absence of which means there is no reason to believe this individual is an innocent victim.

    3) You pose a question (is it right to lock up people without trial?) but don’t offer any argument, just the contention that it is wrong. Are you are relying on the unstated argument that Israel (or any other state) is obliged to compromise its intelligent sources? For this to hold you would need a hierarchy of rights which places the right to be put on trial over and above the right to life. How would you begin to even justify this?

  2. Just got back in, so my reply won’t be as polished as it might be.

    Stephen, you make many fair arguments, which I can’t take up at the moment, but I’ll try and explain my thinking, and it does NOT specifically relate to Israel.

    I object to incarnation without a fair trial, I don’t care *who* does it.

    That include the US, Britain, Ireland, France, Germany, Russia, Saudi Arabia or even Iran.

    My argument such as it is, would be premised on the fact one of the Age of Enlightenment values was to cut down/limit/provide oversight for the capricious whims of Kings (as my reference to lettre de cachet), this applies to States as well.

    I think that habeas corpus is very important, although I can see some exceptions, for a short period of time, however what I object to is when states (that’s everyone, not just Israel) uses such mechanisms.

    That applies whether not its dissidents in the old Soviet Union or those stuck in Iran’s truly awful Evin prison.

    I was against internment in the 1970s, as I thought it was unjust, heavy-handed and liable to abuse and my views haven’t changed much since, given the resultant evidence.

    States are apt to lock up their opponents are if they can get away with it, the military is prone to brutalisation and politicians often find these mechanisms to hard to resist.

    Therefore, for historical reasons as well as moral and political ones, I am against internment/ administrative detention or whatever euphemism is currently going around.

    When Ahmadinejad was brutally putting down the opposition to his fiddled election in 2009, I objected to him locking up his opponents, thus, it would be illogical for me to be against Ahmadinejad using internment but agreeing with it when *other* countries use it.

    I hope that explains, in a short hand way, my basic thinking around this topic.

    PS: if you can provide any Israeli sources to Mahmoud Sarsak’s supposed crimes I would appreciate it. I couldn’t find any, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

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