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PA to UEFA: Bar Israel from Hosting 2013 Championship

Palestine Football Association asks UEFA to bar Israel from hosting a championship because of the detention of PA players.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 6/15/2012, 7:13 AM

Security prisoners
Security prisoners
Flash 90

The Palestine Football Association (PFA) has asked UEFA to bar Israel from hosting the 2013 European Under-21 Championship, AFP reported on Thursday.

The reason for the request is what the PFA described as Israel’s detention without trial of Palestinian Authority Arab players.

In a letter to UEFA President Michel Platini, PFA President Jibril Rajoub expressed concern over the fate of three players: midfielder Mahmud Sarsak, Olympic squad goalkeeper Omar Abu Rois and Ramallah player Mohammed Nimr. All three were arrested on terror-related charges

“We are deeply concerned about the situation of our footballers,” Rajoub wrote in the letter, a copy of which was seen by AFP on Thursday.

"We ask your excellency not to give Israel the honor of hosting the next UEFA U21 Championship in 2013,” he wrote.

Sarsak, 25, began refusing food in late March. He continued his hunger strike even after the end of the mass hunger strike by thousands of Arab prisoners. He is taking vitamins and sugar and drinking milk, AFP reported.

“For athletes in Palestine, there is no real freedom of movement and the risks of being detained or even killed are always looming before their eyes,” Rajoub wrote, according to AFP.

The report added that on Tuesday, French football icon Eric Cantona and nine other prominent figures sent a letter to Platini raising concerns over the ongoing detention of Sarsak.

“We are all shocked at the racist chanting at football matches in Poland and Ukraine where Euro 2012 is being played. Footballing bodies and politicians have been outspoken in their condemnation,” they wrote. “So why are these same groups silent when Israel is to host the UEFA Under-21s competition in 2013?”

“It is time to end Israel's impunity and to insist on the same standards of equality, justice and respect for international law that we demand of other states,” said the letter.

The PA Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs, Isa Karake, announced earlier this week that Arabs serving time in Israel for terror-related offenses are planning a new hunger strike aimed at obtaining the release of Sarsak and two other prisoners.

As part of a deal to end the last mass hunger strike, Israel made some concessions to the PA, including an agreement to stop placing prisoners in solitary confinement.

In addition, Israel agreed to allow prisoners to call relatives, to pursue academic studies, and to allow prisoners from Gaza as well as from Judea and Samaria to receive visits from family members.

The deal also included a release of the bodies of 91 terrorists to the PA. The release of the bodies was s another in an ongoing series of “gestures” by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to the PA, in an effort to encourage PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to agree to return to negotiations with Israel.

So far, the PA has refused, although Abbas has accepted Israel's “gestures.”