Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak is greeted upon his arrival in Gaza City, on July 10, 2012. Under pressure from the international community, Israel freed the Gazan on Tuesday after keeping him behind bars for 3 years without telling him why or giving him a trial, in a deal to end his four-month hunger strike. The 25-year-old shed nearly half his weight during this time. (Getty Images)
On July 22, 2009 Sarsak arrived at the Erez checkpoint between Gaza and Israel with a valid permit to enter the West Bank, where he was seeking to advance his sporting career, after already having received offers from a German football team.
However, the permit didn’t help Sarsak, who was arrested on site and branded an “unlawful combatant” – a legal status similar to that of administrative detainees, which allows Israeli security authorities to hold a person in detention without charge or trial for an unlimited amount of time, with military court supervision over the extension of the detention every six months. The detainee has no way to know why he is held in prison – beyond a vague statement regarding his status as “a threat to regional security” – or if there is any evidence against him. Sarsak had also not been able to see any of his family in three years, as all visitations from the Gaza Strip are forbidden by Israel.