Abbas facing heavy criticism after torture and death of political opponent

June 25, 2021 by Baruch Yedid - TPS
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Palestinian Authority (PA) head Mahmoud Abbas is facing sharp criticism after his political opponent, Nizar Khalil Mohamad Banat, was arrested by PA forces in Hebron on Wednesday night and apparently tortured to death.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank city of Ramallah, August 18, 2020. Photo by Flash90.

Banat, a political activist, a sharp critic of the PA and a candidate for the Freedom and Dignity list, died in the interrogation rooms of the Preventive Security in Hebron, after being attacked at his home by PA security personnel and taken naked for questioning.

His family members say that PA intelligence forces broke into the family home in the town of Dura, near Hebron, beat Nizar with wooden clubs and iron rods and sprayed peppered him, and after stripping him of his clothes, took him questioning.

Two hours later, it became apparent that Banat was dead. At the moment, the family does not know where Banat’s body is and after going through hospitals throughout Hebron, the family learned that doctors in the city’s hospitals were instructed not to perform any surgery on the body or to provide details on its whereabouts.

In April, with the approach of the elections in the PA which have since been postponed, Banat’s house was attacked by unknown individuals. Before that, he had been interrogated numerous times by the PA security forces due to the harsh criticism he used to level against Abbas.

Photos of the severely bruised body were circulated on social media and provoked much outrage on the street. Banat’s death has also sparked anger among Palestinian factions and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) stated that the PA is responsible for the death of the political activist and for a series of human rights violations with the use of methods of repression and silencing.

The Islamic Jihad stated that Banat “died the death of martyr.” Hamas also condemned the assassination and stated that Abbas’ regime is “working against the national interests in the Zionists’ service.”

Activists on social media severely attacked the PA and Abbas for the “political assassination,” and some called for an investigation of the PA leadership following what appears to be an endless series of arrests and acts of repression against its political opponents.

Since Abbas postponed the PA elections which were slated for the end of May, internal political tensions have risen sharply, especially following the decision by Muhammad Dahlan, Marwan Barghouti and Nasser Qidwa to run in the elections and to challenge Abbas’ rule.

Fatah sources told TPS that at least 150 political activists and journalists identified with Muhammad Dahlan’s reformist movement have recently been arrested. It appears that close to 50 activists who were connected to Dahlan’s list of candidates were abducted from their homes, interrogated and arrested. Among Dahlan’s men who were detained are also many from eastern Jerusalem.

A senior Fatah official revealed that many activists have been warned by the PA intelligence services that they are wanted for interrogation and therefore are not staying in their homes, and in several cases, investigators refuse to make the controversial arrests.

One of Dahlan’s associates, Samer Sanjalawi, from eastern Jerusalem, said that Abbas “has become the number one dictator in the Arab world and a symbol of political oppression.”

Sanjalawi added that “since it became clear to Abu Mazen [Abbas] that he was about to be defeated in the election, political violence has intensified and Abu Mazen, who has lost his legitimacy on the Palestinian street, is no longer allowed to represent the Palestinians.” “30% of the donations coming from Europe are transferred to the Palestinian security forces, which are now defending the dictator. The EU and the United States must stop its funding of the dictator for human rights violations, and end his rule,” Sanjalawi said.

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