Palestinian Authority Indicts 14 Security Force Members in Activist’s Death

HEBRON, West Bank — Fourteen members of the Palestinian Authority’s safety providers have been charged with beating to demise an outspoken activist recognized for his fierce on-line criticism, in a case that changed into a rallying cry in opposition to what critics describe because the rising authoritarianism of the Palestinian Authority.

Gen. Talal Dweikat, the spokesman of the safety forces, on Sunday introduced the indictments in opposition to members of Preventive Security, a power recognized for arresting opponents of the authority, together with Hamas militants. The indictments got here after worldwide stress, together with from European Union, on senior Palestinian leaders.

But relations of the sufferer, Nizar Banat, 42, expressed outrage that navy prosecutors did not indict extra senior officers, who they contend bear accountability for Mr. Banat’s demise, and mentioned they have been searching for accountability by means of the worldwide neighborhood.

The authority has tried to painting Mr. Banat’s demise in late June as an remoted incident carried out by a bunch of undisciplined safety forces.

But critics have argued that his demise has highlighted a extra systemic downside in the authority, which has assiduously protected its senior officers and has grown more and more unwilling to tolerate dissent, particularly that which targets members of the ruling social gathering in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Fatah.

Convictions on the cost of beating to demise might carry sentences of at the very least seven years, mentioned Ghandi al-Rabi, a lawyer representing Mr. Banat’s household. Some of the indicted, nonetheless, might face extra extreme penalties as a result of prosecutors have connected aggravating circumstances, Mr. al-Rabi mentioned. Other expenses embrace “illegal confiscation” of property and “violating military orders,” based on a Palestinian safety official talking on situation of anonymity as a result of he was not approved to speak with the media.

Ghassan Banat, a brother of Nizar Banat, mentioned senior officers ought to face penalties in his brother’s demise.Credit…Mosab Shawer/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Ghassan Banat, a brother of Nizar Banat, mentioned the authority ought to haven’t solely charged the forces who took half in Mr. Banat’s arrest.

“They are turning this group of 14 into sacrificial lambs,” he mentioned in an interview. “The authority is shielding the people who gave the orders. Does it make any sense that these 14 soldiers would have come without instructions from above? There are those who ordered, those who planned and those who executed. They all bear responsibility.”

In a cellphone interview, General Dweikat mentioned the folks charged in Mr. Banat’s demise have been the one ones accountable.

More particulars emerged about Mr. Banat’s demise in an interview along with his cousin Hussein Banat, 21, who was on the home Mr. Banat was staying in when it occurred.

Nizar Banat, who had moved to a property owned by relations in an Israeli-controlled a part of Hebron after his own residence was shot at in May, was asleep on June 24 at three:10 a.m., when safety forces for the Palestinian Authority broke by means of a window in pursuit of him, Hussein Banat mentioned.

He mentioned plainclothes safety power members surrounded his cousin, beating him with batons and metallic rods whereas dousing his face with pepper spray.

“It was a horrific sight,” mentioned Hussein Banat, who mentioned he has since struggled to sleep at evening and fears going to public areas. “They savagely beat him without any mercy.”

After the safety forces handcuffed Nizar Banat and compelled him to kneel, the cousin mentioned, a handful of officers sporting vests with the Preventive Security’s brand entered the room and ordered their colleagues to proceed beating him. “Keep going,” he quoted considered one of them as saying sternly earlier than the group carried away Nizar Banat.

Hours later, Jibrin al-Bakri, the governor of Hebron, introduced Mr. Banat died after his well being “deteriorated” throughout his arrest.

Gen. Majed Faraj, the Palestinian intelligence chief, advised European and different diplomats in July that there was no order to kill Mr. Banat, describing his demise as a extremely unlucky “mistake” and emphasizing that U.S., British and different safety forces additionally make occasional deadly errors, based on European officers who have been current.

Two docs who participated in an post-mortem of Mr. Banat described his demise as “unnatural,” with bruises and abrasions on many areas of his physique, together with the top and neck, mentioned Ammar Al-Dwaik, the director of the Independent Commission for Human Rights, a government-established physique, in late June. Justice Minister Mohammad al-Shalaldeh later confirmed to government-run media that Mr. Banat had suffered an “unnatural” demise.

Nizar Banat was a home painter with a following on-line for his acerbic and caustic commentary, together with criticism of the authority’s relations with Israel. From his residence in Dura, a village south of Hebron in the West Bank, he would put up videotaped feedback that few would dare to make however that usually resonated with the broader public.

Nizar Banat blasted President Mahmoud Abbas, heart, for declaring he would solely enable parliamentary and presidential elections to happen if Israel accepted permitting voting in East Jerusalem.Credit…Majdi Mohammed/Associated Press

In late April, he blasted President Mahmoud Abbas for declaring he would enable parliamentary and presidential elections to happen provided that Israel allowed voting in East Jerusalem.

“You want to punish Israel by depriving the Palestinian people of elections,” mentioned Mr. Banat, who had introduced his candidacy for Parliament. “What kind of stupidity is this?”

In addition to criticizing the authority, Mr. Banat took intention at Israel; at Mohammed Dahlan, an exiled rival of Mr. Abbas; and on the L.G.B.T.Q. neighborhood.

The trial of the safety forces is slated to start in coming days.

Without hope for reaching justice in the Palestinian courtroom system, the Banat household mentioned they’ve turned to worldwide authorities for assist.

Protesters took to the streets after Mr. Banat’s demise, with safety forces taking typically violent measures to cease them. Recently, protests over Mr. Banat’s demise have misplaced momentum, however an try to renew them in Ramallah in late August was stymied by safety forces who arrested greater than two dozen folks.

Protesters haven’t solely spoken out in opposition to Mr. Banat’s demise however expressed frustration concerning the eroding independence of the authorized system, rampant nepotism, mismanagement of public funds and arrests concentrating on folks for Facebook posts, amongst different points.

Ghassan Banat mentioned his brother’s demise illustrated to him that he, his spouse and 5 youngsters don’t have any future in the West Bank.

“It’s impossible to endure living here,” he mentioned. “I’ve had enough of the repression from the Palestinian Authority and Israel,” he mentioned. “Once we finish all our work for Nizar, we will leave.”