Amnesty urges investigation into Nizar Banat's death
Amnesty International has called for an independent and transparent investigation into the death of activist Nizar Banat, who died in the custody of Palestinian Authority forces on Thursday.
The call by the rights group came amid protests in the West Bank against PA President Mahmoud Abbas, whose limited self-rule over the occupied territories is seen as increasingly marked by authoritarianism.
Banat, known for his criticism of corruption in the PA, was killed after PA security forces stormed his house in the West Bank city of Hebron and arrested him. One member of his family alleged around 25 officers were involved. Witnesses allege the 43-year-old was badly beaten and stripped naked during the subsequent ordeal.
The local governor in Hebron claimed that his health deteriorated while in custody and that he was pronounced dead on arrival at a government hospital. Days before his arrest, Banat had posted a video to social media criticising the PA in the West Bank and told a friend that the authorities were "after him".
A regional representative for Amnesty International appeared to express doubt over the official narrative.
"The fact that Nizar Banat died so soon after his shockingly brutal arrest raises serious alarm," said Saleh Higazi, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
"The Palestinian authorities must ensure the circumstances of his death, including whether he was tortured in custody, are investigated in an independent, impartial and transparent manner. An independent autopsy must be carried out."
The statement from the rights group echoes similar concerns voiced by the US State Department and the EU. Apparently under pressure, the PA says it has ordered a high-level committee to investigate Banat's death.
Thousands participated in the funeral service for Banat, who had run for Palestinian parliamentary elections before they were called off this year.
After Friday prayer at the Al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem, hundred protested, chanting slogans accusing Palestinian authorities of being "collaborating" with Israel at all levels – a charge that Palestinians regard as akin to treason.