[whistleblower] ‘Assassination’: Abbas critic Nizar Banat dies during raid on his home by PA security officers

Shatha Hammad

Middle East Eye  /  June 24, 2021

Attorney from Lawyers for Justice says Banat was threatened by Palestinian Authority on Wednesday and describes death as an ‘assassination’.

Nizar Banat, a leading Palestinian activist and critic of the Palestinian Authority (PA), has died during a raid by PA security forces on his home in the Hebron area early on Thursday.

In a statement, the Governor of Al-Khalil/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 and persecution 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 away him in military vehicles.

‘Repressive authority’

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.” 

Karajeh added that torture against political opponents was continuing inside prisons run by the PA following the recent waves of arrests.

“He was immediately transferred to the Hebron Government Hospital,” said Hebron Governor Bakri.

“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.”

Shatha Hammad is a Palestinian freelance journalist