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Nizar Banat killing: 14 Palestinian security officers to be charged over activist's death

The officers have been formally accused of 'beatings causing death, abuse of power and violations of security instructions'
Banat was well known for his criticism of the PA leadership and had been arrested several times in the past by Palestinian security forces (Facebook)

Fourteen members of the Palestinian security forces will face a military trial after being formally accused on Monday over the killing of prominent activist Nizar Banat, whose death sparked protests and global condemnation.

Banat, a leading critic of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its 86-year old president, Mahmoud Abbas, died in June shortly after security forces stormed his home in the flashpoint city of Hebron and dragged him away.

'We are experiencing fragmented, distorted and incomplete justice'

- Ghassan, brother of Nizar Banat

A post-mortem found he had been beaten on the head, chest, neck, legs and hands, with less than an hour elapsing between his arrest and his death. 

Banat's family has said it has no confidence in the PA's capacity to deliver justice, and called for an international probe. 

But the PA, notably Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh, has promised accountability, and ordered a full investigation. 

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Gandhi Amin, Banat’s family lawyer, explained to Middle East Eye on Monday that the Palestinian military prosecution referred the assassination case to the military court, after indicting 14 officers and military personnel.

He added that the indictments included charges such as beating leading to death with premeditated murder, use of torture, disobeying military orders, and unlawful confiscation. 

Amin denied that there would be indictments for other levels, such as those who issued the arrest warrant. 

“The other levels denied that they gave orders other than the arrest warrant, and stressed that the arrest must be in accordance with the law without the use of force or beatings,” he told MEE.

The lawyer added that the trials are expected to be swift, with the possibility of a verdict next week. He predicted that the sentences will not be less than seven years and may include life sentences.

Regarding the attendance of representatives of human rights organisations at the trial sessions, Amin said the court has approved the family’s request for the trial to be public.  

'Incomplete justice'

Meanwhile, Ghassan Banat, brother of the slain activist, said the family is not satisfied with the recent decisions, which acquitted senior officials such as the director of the security agency, his deputy and the agency’s commander.

“We are experiencing fragmented, distorted and incomplete justice,” he told MEE.

"These elements did not go down to assassinate Nizar on their own. There are those who planned, gave instructions and ordered their implementation."

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Banat was well known for his criticism of the PA leadership and had been arrested several times in the past by Palestinian security forces.

Following Banat's death, Muhannad Karajah, a member of the Palestinian Lawyers for Justice group, told Middle East Eye that Banat had called him the day before his detention and told him that he was being subjected to threats by the PA's intelligence service, who had demanded that he stop his criticism of the authority.

Banat's family last month stepped up their fight for international justice, seeking intervention from British police, under the principle of universal jurisdiction, and the UN. 

Activists have also staged a series of protests in the West Bank demanding justice for Banat. 

The UN and the European Union last month raised alarm over a spate of arrests of activists by Palestinian security forces since Banat's death, warning the PA appeared to be cracking down on basic freedoms across the West Bank.

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