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June 25, 2021 9:47 am

Palestinian Mourners Call for Change at Funeral of Abbas Critic

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

People attend the funeral of Palestinian critic Nizar Banat, who died after being arrested by Palestinians Authority’s security forces, in Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, June 25, 2021. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma

Palestinian mourners called on Friday for a change of government as they marched through Hebron for the funeral of one of President Mahmoud Abbas’s most prominent critics, who died after he was arrested by security forces.

Thousands of people accompanied Nizar Banat’s coffin through the streets of the West Bank city, many of them chanting “the people want the fall of the regime” and “leave, leave Abbas.”

Some waved Palestinian flags and others the flag of Hamas, Abbas’s Islamist rivals in Gaza. Protesters also gathered in Ramallah and outside Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Banat’s family said Palestinian Authority (PA) forces broke into his house in the city in the early hours of Thursday and hit him repeatedly with a metal rod before arresting him.

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He suffered blows to the head, the PA’s Independent Commission for Human Rights said after conducting an autopsy.

Abbas’ Palestinian Authority said it would hold an inquiry, but has not commented on the accusations. Its governor for Hebron, Jibrin Al-Bakri, said Banat died when his health “deteriorated” during his arrest.

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.

Human rights groups say that Abbas, who has ruled the PA by decree for well over a decade, regularly arrests his critics. A Human Rights Watch official said Banat’s arrest was “no anomaly.” Abbas denies the accusations.

The United States, United Nations and European Union called on the PA to conduct a “transparent” inquiry into Banat’s death.

Hamas, which rules Gaza and saw a surge in popularity after heavy Israel-Gaza fighting in May, called on Palestinians to rise up and “put a final end to the widespread violation by the (PA) against the freedoms and rights of our people”.

Abbas and the PA reject accusations they are corrupt and that they arrest people for their political views. They also deny torture.

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