Palestinian Authority forces have raided the homes of family members of a human rights activist and critic of the authority who died mysteriously after being taken into custody by the PA.
Security forces stormed into the homes of Nizar Banat’s family in Hebron in the early hours of Tuesday, 5 October, just a week after a trial opened into his death, with 14 members of the PA who took part in Nizar’s arrest up in court. They are accused of battery, abuse of power and violating military orders.
According to Nizar Banat’s cousin Ammar Banat, the PA has said that 12 members of his family are wanted as part of an investigation following the arrest of his brother, Hussein Banat.
Hussein Banat was arrested the day after the trial began, in which he was set to be a key witness to the events of Nizar’s death.
Local reports suggest Hussein was beaten until he was unconscious and then left without medical treatment. He was also allegedly threatened to withdraw from giving vital evidence at the trial.
Reports claim that Hussein Barat was told to deny seeing the commander involved in Banat’s killing, Aziz Tamizi, putting gas into Nizar Banat’s mouth and ordering security officials to “complete the mission”.
Nizar’s family claim that the 14 are in court to deflect blame away from Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.
During the trial, it was also claimed that Nizar Banat’s phone was hacked before his death.
Nizar Banat, 43, was well known for his social media videos condemning PA corruption. His death after being arrested in a raid on his home on Thursday, 24 June, 2021, sparked widespread anger among opponents of the authority.
An autopsy of Banat’s body suggested that he had been beaten on the head, chest, hands, legs, and neck. It also found that there was less than an hour between his detention and death.
Protests erupted after his death, which were met with excessive repression by PA forces. PA police used rubber bullets, batons and tear gas to disperse demonstrations in Ramallah, and journalists were beaten for attempting to report on the demonstrations.