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Abbas fires official who criticized activist’s death in PA custody

Nizar Banat, a West Bank Palestinian and resident of Hebron, who was arrested by the Palestinian Authority security services for criticizing the resumption of ties with Israel. (Screenshot: Facebook)
Nizar Banat, a West Bank Palestinian and resident of Hebron, who was arrested by the Palestinian Authority security services for criticizing the resumption of ties with Israel. (Screenshot: Facebook)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas fires the director of the Palestinian national library after he criticized the government over the death of an activist in the custody of Palestinian security forces.

In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, Ehab Bessaiso is removed from the post, as well as from the library’s board of directors.

The letter, dated June 27 and signed by Abbas, does not give a reason for the dismissal. But it comes three days after Bessaiso wrote a long Facebook post that criticized the death of Nizar Banat, an outspoken critic of the Palestinian Authority.

“Nothing justifies committing a crime,” wrote Bessaiso, a former Cabinet minister and government spokesman. “Killing a human being is a crime, no matter how blurry, ambiguous and emotional the picture seems.”

“Difference in opinion is not an epidemic, or an emergency, or a justification for bloodshed,” he added.

Banat died in custody shortly after he was arrested by Palestinian security forces. His family has said he was beaten as he was taken out of his home. It has accused the Palestinian Authority of trying to cover up the death.

Banat’s death has prompted weeks of protests. Palestinian officials have said the matter is under investigation.

The Palestinian Authority is widely viewed as corrupt and authoritarian, with a recent poll showing that support for Abbas, who took power for what was supposed to be a four-year term in 2005, has plummeted.

Abbas has faced mounting pressure after calling off parliamentary elections when it appeared that his Fatah party would suffer a crushing defeat to Hamas.

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