Attorney from Lawyers for Justice says Barat was threatened by the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday and describes death as an ‘assassination’
By Shatha Hammad in
Ramallah, Occupied West Bank
Nizar Banat, a leading Palestinian activist and critic of the Palestinian Authority (PA), has died after a raid by PA security forces on his home in Dura in the Hebron area early on Thursday.
In a statement, the Governor of Hebron Jibreen al-Bakri said “during the arrest his health deteriorated,” however Banat’s family said he had been subjected to a beating while being detained.
The arrest took place as the PA stepped up its security crackdown on political opponents and social media users in the occupied West Bank.
Banat was well known for his criticism of the PA leadership and had been arrested several times in the past by Palestinian security forces.
Muhannad Karajah, from Lawyers for Justice, told MEE that Banat had phoned him on Wednesday and told him that he was being subjected to threats by the PA’s intelligence service, who had demanded that he stop his criticism of the authority.
Banat has for months been posting videos on Facebook on which he lambasted PA President Mahmoud Abbas and other senior PA and Fatah officials.
Earlier this week, he posted a video in which he strongly attacked the PA over its now cancelled vaccine exchange with Israel.
Bakri said the officers had arrived at Banat’s home after an arrest warrant was issued by the Public Prosecution.
Ammar, a cousin of Banat and a spokesman for the family, told MEE that about 25 officers and a member of the Preventive Security and General Intelligence, stormed the house around 3.30am in the morning after detonating its doors.
He said the officers stormed the room in which Nizar was sleeping and immediately began to attack him by spraying him with gas in his mouth and nose.
The cousin said they beat Banat severely with iron and wooden batons.
He added that Nizar had been in a fainting state, so they dragged him, stripped him of his clothes, and transported him away in military vehicles.
Karajah said he had expected that Banat would be arrested, as he had been several times before because of his positions and posts opposing the PA.
The lawyer said: “What happened with Nizar Banat is an assassination.
“Today, what Palestinian activists and human rights defenders are waiting for are assassinations.
“The [Palestinian] Authority confirms today by killing Nizar Banat that it is a repressive authority that threatens any human rights defender, and every person is subjected to a process of political arrest.”
Karajah added that torture against political opponents was continuing inside prisons run by the PA following the recent waves of arrests.
‘They did not transfer Nizar to the hospital’
Hebron Governor Bakri said Banat was immediately transferred to the Hebron Government Hospital following his detention.
“After he was examined by doctors, he was pronounced dead,” said Banat.
“The Public Prosecution office started procedures in accordance with the law immediately after it was informed of the incident.”
Ammar said Banat’s family had immediately began contacting their acquaintances in the various headquarters of the security services in Hebron after Banat was taken away, but were unable to obtain any information about his whereabouts, and had learned that he had not been transferred to the headquarters of the security services.
He said: “An hour and a half after the arrest, news spread through WhatsApp groups stating that he had died as a result of a health setback, and they did not officially inform us as a family of any information about his death until now.”
Ammar said a delegation from the family went to Alia Governmental Hospital, where the security services had announced his death, but did not find his body.
He said: “The announcement of his death in Alia was a ruse. They did not transfer Nizar to the hospital, nor did they transfer him to any of the security headquarters.
“Until this moment, five hours after his death, we do not know the location of the body of our son Nizar.
“The Palestinian Authority is hiding the body in order to manipulate the facts about his death.”
Ammar told MEE that two months ago, Banat was shot at in his house in Dura, where his family had found 60 bullets in the house.
“After that, we received threats from officers in the security services that Nizar would be assassinated, but we ruled it out… but today they carried out what they promised and assassinated Nizar,” said Ammar.
The family said it was demanding the disclosure of the full truth and facts of Banat’s death and who was responsible.
Ammar said: “We demand from the top of the pyramid in the Palestinian Authority to the smallest member in it to reveal Nizar’s body and what they did with it.
“We demand the formation of an international investigation committee headed by a doctor from the family and a doctor from the Human Rights Commission, and people chosen by the family, and that the autopsy not take place in the institutes affiliated with the authority, but in the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute [in Tel Aviv].
“We want to take our right by law, and our son’s blood will not be in vain… We will know who took the decision to assassinate him and who carried out the assassination. And both of them we want to punish.”
Middle East Eye