Weak but happy, Mahmoud al-Sarsak of the Palestinian national football team, has been freed from jail by Israel.
He had been held for the last three years without trial on charges of being active in the militant Islamic Jihad group, a charge he denies.
He was welcomed as a hero at his home in Gaza, and as a loved son by his family.
“We did not expect that Mahmoud would be released. Thank God he is released. I hope that all prisoners will be released,” said his sister Wafa.
Mahmoud went on hunger strike several times and his cause was taken up by the likes of Sepp Blatter and Eric Cantona.
“Sarsak won after setting out on a hunger strike to the end, that lasted more than 90 days. It was a legal battle, a battle against this sort of absolutely illegal and illegitimate detention,” said Issa Qaraqe, the Palestinian Authority’s Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs.
Since last month and a deal struck with prisoners’ representatives, Israel has relaxed prison visit restrictions, improved conditions, and ended solitary confinement for 1,600 detainees.