Family of Palestinian activist who died in custody reject official probe

Nizar Banat's father said his son's death was a crime

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The father of Palestinian activist Nizar Banat on Monday rejected the official probe into his son’s death in custody, which has led to days of protests in the West Bank.

“All its parties are from the Palestinian Authority and this is the law of the jungle,” said Banat’s father Khalil Banat, quoted by Quds News.

Mr Banat's 43-year-old son died on Thursday after being detained and beaten by Palestinian security agents at a home in Hebron, according to his family.

The death of the PA critic was described as a “crime” by Mr Banat, who said responsibility lay with Palestinian officials including Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.

Mr Shtayyeh on Monday pushed the investigative committee looking into Banat's death to publish their findings within two days, pledging transparency.

Palestinians have held daily rallies in support of the fallen activist and against the PA since Thursday.

The protests have focused on Ramallah - the seat of the PA - where plainclothes Palestinian security forces have attacked demonstrators, journalists and human rights workers.

Aseel Al Bajeh, a legal researcher and advocacy officer at rights group Al Haq, said she was wearing a vest with the organisation’s logo when she was repeatedly targeted on Sunday.

"He was very violent… he called some guys and they demanded to take my phone from me. They beat some people around me who were trying to protect me," she told The National.

While documenting events in Ramallah for Al Haq, Ms Al Bajeh said she saw people being hit with batons, sticks and stones.

“You would see people having injuries on their head and blood coming from their faces,” she said.

Women also reported being sexually assaulted by men believed to be PA security officials, due to their prior appearance in uniform and actions at earlier rallies, according to Al Haq.

Following attacks on reporters covering the protests, journalists on Monday rallied outside a United Nations office in Ramallah to call for protection.

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate called for the PA’s police chief to be fired “due to the police’s failure to protect journalists who were attacked, prevented from reporting and threatened".

The PA’s labour minister, Nasri Abu Jaish, was set to resign after his Palestinian People's Party withdrew from the government, a party member said Sunday.

While demonstrators have called for the overhaul of the PA, led by Mahmoud Abbas, counter-protests have been held by the president’s Fatah party.

Supporters of Abbas clashed with protesters in Ramallah on Sunday, while heavily-armed militants from Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades held a rally near Hebron.

The European Union, the PA’s largest financial backer, said it was “appalled by the brutal conduct of the Palestinian security forces” in Ramallah.

“The excessive use of force against demonstrators is unacceptable and should be investigated in order to hold those responsible accountable,” the bloc’s Jerusalem office said on Sunday.

The United States is yet to comment on the protests.

On Thursday the US State Department called on the PA to conduct a “thorough and transparent investigation” into Mr Banat’s death and expressed “serious concerns” about the harassment of activists.

Agencies contributed to this report

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