The Palestinian Authority (PA) deployed security personnel on Saturday to counter protestors who went to the streets of Ramallah, West Bank, following the death in prison of one of President Mahmoud Abbas’s most vocal opponents.
According to Banat’s family, Nizar Banat was detained by PA troops who stormed into a relative’s house where he was living in the early hours of Thursday and violently beat him with a metal rod before detaining him.
Banat’s killing triggered three days of protests in the occupied West Bank, as well as worldwide calls for an investigation.
According to Reuters footage, Palestinian security personnel lined the streets and stopped demonstrators with their fists and clubs on Saturday.
According to witnesses, the cops, some of whom were dressed in riot gear and others in normal clothing, shot tear gas and assaulted journalists. There were no official numbers on the number of persons detained or injured.
Talal Dweikat, a spokesperson for the PA security forces, said the investigation into Banat’s death had begun and asked people to wait for the results. He made no mention of the violence that occurred on Saturday.
The Palestinian journalists’ union condemned attacks by security forces against journalists covering the protest.
“The targeting of journalists by security men is a new, grave development in the onslaught on freedom of expression and the media,” the union said in a statement.
Banat, 43, was a social activist who had accused Abbas’s PA of corruption, including over a short-lived COVID-19 vaccine exchange with Israel this month and Abbas’s postponement of a long-delayed election in May.
Banat had registered as a parliamentary candidate for that contest.
The crowd marched through streets waving Palestinian flags and pictures of Banat and calling for an end to Abbas’s 16-year rule.
“We want a total political reform that will truly reflect the interests of the people,” said protester Esmat Mansour.
Human rights groups say Abbas regularly arrests critics. A Human Rights Watch official said Banat’s arrest was “no anomaly”.
Abbas and the PA, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, reject accusations they are corrupt and that they arrest people for their political views.