Activist critical of Palestinian Authority dies after arrest

Hebron /PNN/

A Palestinian activist who was a well-known critic of the Palestinian Authority’s leadership has died after being arrested by its security forces.

Palestinian officers detained Nizar Banat at his home near the occupied West Bank city of Hebron overnight.

Mr. Banat’s family has alleged that he was badly beaten during the raid.

The Governor of Hebron Jibreen Al-Bakri today said in a statement regarding the death of Nizar Banat in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron that, “Following issuing a summons from the Public Prosecution to arrest the citizen Nizar Khalil Muhammad Banat, a force from the security services arrested him at dawn today, and during the arrest, his health deteriorated. He was immediately transferred to the Hebron Government Hospital.”

The statement added. “After he was examined by doctors, he was pronounced dead. The Public Prosecution office started procedures in accordance with the law immediately after it was informed of the incident.”

Human rights groups have accused the Palestinian security forces, which receive international funding, of routinely arresting and torturing peaceful critics and opponents to crush dissent. However, deaths in custody are rare.

The Independent Commission for Human Rights seriously looks with great concern at the death of the activist Nizar Banat, the 44-year-old former candidate for the Freedom and Dignity electoral list for the Legislative Council elections.

Nizar’s death was announced shortly after his arrest by a large security force at 3 am today, 24 June 2021, in the southern region of Hebron. According to the testimonies of eyewitnesses and family members, who were with him, he was beaten and sprayed with gas during his arrest.

ICHR has begun investigating and collecting information about the death incident. Additionally, ICHR will participate in the autopsy through a forensic doctor delegated by the Commission.

The results of the investigation will be announced immediately. ICHR also agreed with Al-Haq to coordinate efforts and work jointly to investigate the incident.

The European Union’s delegation to the Palestinians expressed shock at Mr. Banat’s death and also called for an independent investigation.

The representative of the European Union in Palestine said in a tweet:”  Shocked and saddened by the death of activist and former legislative candidate Nizar Banat following his arrest by the PA security forces last night.

He added: “Our thoughts go to his family and loved ones. Full, independent, and transparent investigation should be conducted immediately”.

The United Nations Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland said he was “alarmed and saddened” by Mr Banat’s death.

“My deepest condolences to his family & loved ones,” he added. “I call for a swift, independent & transparent investigation. Perpetrators must be brought to justice.”

Mr. Banat, 43, had been arrested several times by the PA’s forces in recent years.

He often posted videos on Facebook pages in which he directly accused powerful individuals of corruption. He also urged Western countries to stop providing financial aid to the PA.

He was a candidate on the Freedom and Dignity electoral list for the Palestinian legislative elections, which had been due to take place last month but were postponed by President Mahmoud Abbas at the end of April amid a dispute over voting rights in East Jerusalem.

The General Political Commissioner and spokesman for the security services, Major General Talal Dweikat, said today that Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has ordered the immediate formation of an impartial investigation committee to look into the death of Nizar Banat after his arrest by the security forces earlier this morning in his house in Hebron.

Dweikat said, in a phone conversation with WAFA, that there is no objection to the participation of human rights institutions in the investigation committee, stressing that the government is ready to take any measures that result from the findings of the committee.

The committee will be headed by Minister of Justice Mohammad Shalaldeh, with the participation of a human rights official, a physician appointed by the Banat family, and a security official.

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