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UN, EU condemn Palestinian Authority over arrests of Palestinian activists

Maryam Banat, 67, mother of Palestinian Authority critic Nizar Banat, holds a poster with his picture at a rally protesting his death, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on July 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
Maryam Banat, 67, mother of Palestinian Authority critic Nizar Banat, holds a poster with his picture at a rally protesting his death, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on July 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

The UN and the EU express concern over a spate of arrests of activists by Palestinian security forces, as the death of a leading activist in custody sparks persistent protests.

Demonstrators in the West Bank have demanded justice since the June death of Nizar Banat — a leading critic of the Palestinian Authority and its 86-year old president Mahmud Abbas — who died in custody after security forces stormed his home in the flashpoint city of Hebron and dragged him away.

The United Nations human rights office says it is “deeply concerned at continuing pressure on those seeking to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly in Palestine.”

It says the security forces had arrested 23 people in Ramallah on Saturday on the grounds that “they were holding a public protest,” but notes that 21 of them “were detained before any protest had even started.”

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

It says “more arrests appear to be taking place” targeting “well-known human rights defenders and political activists,” and calls for “the immediate release without charge of these individuals.”

The Palestinian Authority is not immediately available to respond to the criticism.

A statement from the European Union representative in Jerusalem also condemns the weekend arrests, which it says had come “against the backdrop of reports of an increase in apparently politically motivated arrests by the Palestinian Authority over the past few months.”

“Violence against peaceful human rights defenders, activists and protesters is unacceptable,” the EU says.

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