Critic of Abbas dies in Palestinian custody, UN calls for investigation
HEBRON, West Bank, June 24 (Reuters) – A Palestinian parliamentary candidate who criticized the internationally-backed Palestinian Authority died Thursday after being arrested by PA security forces, sparking international demands for an investigation .
According to relatives, Nizar Banat was severely beaten during his arrest by Palestinian security forces in Hebron overnight. The Palestinian Authority-appointed governor of the city, located in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, said Banat died when his health deteriorated after his arrest, without giving details of the cause.
Banat, 43, was a well-known social activist who accused the Palestinian Authority of corruption, including over President Mahmoud Abbas’ postponement of long-delayed elections in May and a short-lived COVID-19 vaccine swap. duration with Israel this month. Read more
He had planned to run in the legislative elections, before Abaas postponed them.
Hussein Banat, 21, a cousin living in the same house, told Reuters the family had been awakened by the sound of security forces entering through the door and windows. The troops immediately started beating Banat.
âThey hit him on the head with iron bars, which they had used to open the windows,â he said. âThey kept beating him for eight minutes. If you came to arrest him, take him away. Why the brutality? And why the violence?
Another family member who witnessed the arrest said Banat was alive when he was taken away and screamed when he was beaten.
Hebron Governor Jibrin Al-Bakri said in a statement that Banat’s arrest was on the order of the Palestinian Authority‘s attorney general. The authorities did not immediately give the reason for the arrest.
When Banat was taken into custody, “his state of health deteriorated and he was immediately transferred to the Hebron government hospital. He was examined by doctors who declared him dead,” said Bakri’s press release. Reuters contacted a Palestinian Authority spokesperson to ask for more details on the arrest, but there was no immediate response.
United Nations Middle East Peace Envoy Tor Wennesland said on Twitter he was alarmed and saddened by the death, and called for a transparent investigation.
“The perpetrators must be brought to justice,” Wennesland said, offering condolences to Banat’s family.
The European Union delegation to the Palestinians said on Twitter that it was “shocked and saddened” by the death. A “full, independent and transparent investigation must be carried out immediately,” he added.
Lynn Hastings, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator, called the news “disturbing” and also called for those responsible to be brought to justice.
The Palestinian Authority exercises limited autonomy in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, which is home to 3.1 million Palestinians.
On Monday, Banat, who had 100,000 Facebook followers, condemned PA officials as “mercenaries” for the COVID-19 vaccine swap deal, which the PA quickly canceled.
The Palestinian Independent Human Rights Commission said it viewed Banat’s death with “great gravity” and had launched an investigation.
Banat was scheduled to run for the Palestinian parliament on May 22. Abbas called off that election, citing Israeli control over Palestinians in East Jerusalem. Opponents accuse Abbas of having canceled the elections to avoid losing to Islamist rivals. Read more
Reporting by Ali Sawafta Writing by Nidal al-Mughrabi Editing by Peter Graff
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