PA detains 14 over Nizar Banat death

Palestinian Authority detains security officers over Nizar Banat death
2 min read
02 July, 2021
The arrests come after the head of a preliminary PA probe into Banat's death found that the activist had been subjected to violence and that his death was 'unnatural'.
The 46-year-old, an outspoken critic of the PA, died in PA custody last Thursday [Twitter]

More than a dozen Palestinian security troops, including officers, have been detained over their alleged involvement in the death of prominent activist Nizar Banat, according to his cousin.

"We have been informed that 14 of those who took part in the assassination of Banat are being detained in Jericho," Ammar Banat told local media.

He added that while the family was given the news early on Thursday, they did not take it seriously. He called on the Palestinian  Authority to release the names of those it had arrested.

"We will not allow there to be scapegoats who are made to bear the responsibility of those [actually] involved. All must be held to account for their crimes, actions, and words," the deceased's cousin said.

PA security forces spokesman Talal Dweikat confirmed the number arrested in relation to Banat's death, saying they had been referred to the judiciary pending "completion of the investigation procedures", WAFA reported.

The arrests follow a preliminary probe into Banat's death by a high-level PA committee, reportedly assembled by intelligence and military authorities.

The 46-year-old, an outspoken critic of the PA, died in PA custody last Thursday soon after dozens of security forces stormed his home in Hebron to arrest him.

PA Justice Minister Muhammad Shalalda, the committee's head, told official Palestine TV that Banat had been subject to physical violence and that his death was "unnatural".

He said that the committee confirmed "from footage and all reports" that the Banat had left his home alive but lost consciousness on the way to hospital.

The committee submitted the results of its investigation to the PA Prime Minister Mohamed Shtayeh, who will refer it to the military judiciary for further consideration, according to Shlaldeh.  

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The US State Department and the EU mission in Palestine have both expressed their shock at Banat's death in custody, urging investigations. Rights groups and Banat's family have called for an impartial and independent investigation, with Banat's brother, Khalil Banat, calling for an open trial.

Protest decrying Banat's death have swept the West Bank and been violently suppressed by PA security forces and plainclothes officers.

Banat had recently spoken against a deal between the PA and Israel to distribute 1 million Covid-19 doses to Palestinians in the West Bank, a deal which fell through after it transpired that the doses were due to expire at the end of June.

Observers interpret the activist's death as symbolising the PA's further descent into authoritarianism, coming after decades of abuse, torture and other rights violations deployed against critics of the semi-autonomous government that was created during the Oslo Accords with Israel in 1993.