UEFA urged to remove Israel as under-21 Euro host

Palestine football leaders have urged UEFA to remove Israel as

the 2013 European Under-21 Championship host nation for jailing

Palestine national team players without trial.

Palestine federation president Jibril Rajoub wrote to UEFA

President Michel Platini to say that Israel’s government is in

”direct violation of FIFA regulations.”

”We ask, your excellency, to not give Israel the honor to host

the next UEFA Under-21 Championship,” Rajoub said, in a letter

seen by The Associated Press on Thursday. ”We are deeply concerned

about the situation of our footballers.”

UEFA declined official comment.

Israel is set to stage the eight-nation tournament across four

venues from June 5 to 18 next year.

The UEFA executive committee voted for Israel in January 2011

over competing bids from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, England and

Wales.

Rajoub is pressuring Platini to intervene on Palestine’s behalf

as player Mahmoud Sarsak approaches a fourth month on a hunger

strike.

Israel has jailed Sarsak for three years as an ”illegal

combatant” after he was stopped at a Gaza Strip checkpoint while

traveling to an international match, Rajoub said.

”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,” he wrote.

Rajoub’s letter named two other players, Omar Rweis and Mohammad

Nimer, who are also being held without trial.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter and the global network of players’

unions, FIFPro, support Sarsak’s case.

Blatter wrote to Israel football president Avi Luzon this week

asking for ”urgent” help to press government authorities for

action.