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Family of PA critic vows to reject commission conclusions on his death

Dozens of Palestinian journalists rally, demand press freedom following violent clashes with Palestinian Authority police sparked by Nizar Banat’s death in custody

The wife of Palestinian political activist Nizar Banat, Jihan, speaks during a press conference at the family home in Dura south of Hebron city in the West Bank, on June 28, 2021, about progress in the investigation of her husband's death on June 24, during his arrest by Palestinian Authority security forces. (MOSAB SHAWER / AFP)
The wife of Palestinian political activist Nizar Banat, Jihan, speaks during a press conference at the family home in Dura south of Hebron city in the West Bank, on June 28, 2021, about progress in the investigation of her husband's death on June 24, during his arrest by Palestinian Authority security forces. (MOSAB SHAWER / AFP)

The family of Palestinian Authority critic Nizar Banat, who died in PA custody last week, said Monday that it will not accept the results of an official commission on his death.

Banat, a prominent critic of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, was allegedly beaten by Palestinian officers during his arrest. His death on Thursday sparked rare protests in Hebron and Ramallah calling for an end to Abbas’s 16-year rule.

The commission is composed of Justice Minister Mohammad Shalaldeh and a representative from the PA’s intelligence services. A representative from the Banat family and from the Independent Commission on Human Rights, a leading Palestinian civil society group, both withdrew from the investigation, calling it slanted.

The government’s committee is expected to deliver its conclusions to Abbas on Tuesday, the official PA Wafa news agency said Sunday.

PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh has said that those responsible for Banat’s death “will be held accountable,” according to Wafa.

According to an autopsy, Banat was beaten on the head, chest, neck, legs, and hands, with less than an hour elapsing between his arrest and his death.

Nizar Banat, an outspoken critic of the Palestinian Authority, speaks to journalists at the family house, in the West Bank city of Hebron, May 4, 2021. (AP/Nasser Nasser)

The United States said it was “deeply disturbed” by Banat‘s death, and UN Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland said the “perpetrators must be brought to justice.”

Banat, who has railed against alleged corruption in the PA, had registered as a candidate in Palestinian parliamentary elections, which had been set for May until Abbas postponed them indefinitely.

Dozens of Palestinian journalists rallied Monday outside a UN building in Ramallah to demand press freedom following violent clashes with the Palestinian Authority police sparked by Banat’s death.

Days of clashes between protesters and police have left several journalists injured.

Palestinians hold posters depicting human rights activist Nizar Banat, during a protest triggered by the violent arrest and death in custody of Banat, in his hometown of Hebron in the West Bank, on June 27, 2021. (MOSAB SHAWER / AFP)

Reporters Without Borders said that during weekend unrest in the West Bank, 12 Palestinian journalists, including five women, were assaulted by Palestinian Authority police.

Naila Khalil, a reporter with The New Arab media outlet, said Palestinian reporters submitted a letter to the UN, urging the world body “to take necessary and immediate measures” to protect media freedom.

Mohammed Gharafi of the Ultra Palestine news site said he has been harassed by PA security forces who have threatened to confiscate his phone if he does not stop filming the protests.

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