Palestinian officers who beat human rights activist to death released from prison

Last year’s death of Nizar Banat, an outspoken critic of PA corruption, sparked widespread Palestinian protests.

By World Israel News Staff

Palestinian Authority security officers accused of beating to death Nizar Banat, a human rights activist and PA critic, were released on bail despite protests from the victim’s widow, AFP reported on Wednesday.

Fourteen members of the PA’s Preventative Security force were released after prosecutors agreed to their request, filed on Tuesday, to be freed on bail without a court order.

The accused officers cited the spread of COVID in the PA jail where they were being held as grounds for their release.

Banat’s widow, Jihan Banat, excoriated the decision to release her husband’s suspected killers, calling their release “political”.

“If the Palestinian Authority is worried about the spread of the coronavirus, why doesn’t it release all the other prisoners held on charges?”

Almost exactly one year ago, Banat, a 43-year-old Hebron resident and chairman of the Freedom and Dignity party, was dragged from his home before dawn and arrested by PA police officers.

Three hours later, the Palestinian Authority announced that Banat had died while in custody.

An autopsy later showed that Banat died less than an hour after he was arrested, and that he had died as a result of blows suffered to his head, chest, and neck.

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Banat, an anti-corruption activist, was a frequent critic of Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, and had planned to challenge Abbas’ Fatah party in the next PA legislative election.

Relatives accused the Palestinian Authority of carrying out a de facto assassination.

Banat’s death sparked mass protests across the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

In response to the demonstrations, the Palestinian Authority cracked down on anti-corruption activists, arresting dozens of its critics. As the protests continued, the PA vowed transparency in the investigation of Banat’s death.

The security officers involved are currently being tried in a military court, but some PA legal experts and human rights activists said the trial lacks “legitimate court procedures.”

“The last six months have revealed an intentional procrastination in court procedures with regard to the people accused of killing Nizar Banat,” Majed al-Arouri, a Ramallah-based jurist and human rights advocate told AFP, adding that the decision to free the suspects this week without a court order was “illegal.”