FIFA President Sepp Blatter (R) shakes hands with Palestinian coaches.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) on Wednesday announced that it had provided the IDF’s legal division with evidence to indict a Palestinian soccer player for meetings with a Hamas terrorist in Qatar, which he covered up as part of his team’s soccer tour.
The statement said that Samah Fares Muhamed Marava, 22, and Kalkilya resident, left Israel with his team on their soccer tour on April 15.
The Shin Bet said that while in Qatar, Marava met with Talal Ibrahim Abd al-Rahman Sarim, part of Hamas’ military wing, who was previously sentenced to life in prison in Israel, but released and deported as part of the Schalit prisoner exchange.
The statement said that since his release, Sarim has reconnected with Hamas and is involved with its military operations in the field.
During his interrogation, Marava said that before he left for Qatar, Muad Yusef Hasan Sarim, a senior Hamas operative in Kalkilya, approached him about meeting with Talal Sarim during his trip, the Shin Bet said.
During Marava’s meeting with Talal Sarim, said the statement, Marava received money, a cellphone and written messages that Talal Sarim asked him to bring to Hamas operatives in Kalkilya. This was later confirmed by Muad Sarim who was arrested on May 21.
The Shin Bet accused Marava of “cynically exploiting” his status as a soccer player to leave the country and make contacts with foreign Hamas agents and arrested him on April 28, upon his return to Israel.
On Tuesday, following the arrest, Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat sent a letter of protest to Federation Internationale de Footbal Association (FIFA) president Josef Blatter to update him regarding the incident and impending criminal charges.
The letter referenced Blatter’s meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu two weeks ago over the Palestinians’ ongoing complaints that Israel hampers their national soccer team’s ability to travel internationally for matches.
The Palestinians have pushed for Israel to be thrown out of FIFA due to their complaints, while Israel has responded that it works hard to allow traveling abroad, but that some trips get restricted for serious security concerns.
Livnat said that while “the State of Israel does not mix politics with sports,” FIFA must recognize that Marava’s acts were “aimed at harming the security” of Israel and its civilians.
The minister wrote: “I am confident that you will find this information worrisome and constituting clear evidence of the misuse of sports in a fashion that threatens the security of Israeli civilians.”
She said she was looking to the Palestinian Authority to denounce the incident.