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Progressive Democrats slam Palestinian Authority over crackdown on protesters

Palestinian security forces arrested dozens of demonstrators over the weekend who were demanding accountability over the killing of activist Nizar Banat
Progressive Democrats in the House and the Senate lamented the Palestinian Authority's crackdown on human rights activists and critics.
Progressive Democrats in the House and the Senate lamented the Palestinian Authority's crackdown on human rights activists and critics (AFP)
By MEE staff in Washington

Several progressive US Democrats have accused the Palestinian Authority (PA) of human rights violations following the arrests of dozens of demonstrators over the weekend.

The outcry erupted after Palestinian security forces arrested dozens of demonstrators who had gathered to hold protests on both Saturday and Sunday to demand accountability over the killing of Palestinian activist Nizar Banat.

Banat, a 43-year-old activist who was a fierce critic of the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, died in custody on 24 June after PA security forces raided his home.

Since the arrests over the weekend, progressive Democrats in both the House and the Senate have sounded their displeasure, lamenting about the PA's crackdown on human rights activists and critics.

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Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib directed her anger at Mahmoud Abbas.

"Dear President Mahmoud Abbas... This is NOT how you protect and serve the Palestinian people. Shame on you for suppressing Palestinian voices who are trying to seek liberation from not only the Israeli apartheid government, but from your corrupt leadership," she said.

"Palestinians face enough danger and oppression without their own government imprisoning them simply for peacefully protesting police brutality," she added.

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who has been fiercely critical of Israel's occupation policies, called on the PA to immediately release those it had arrested.

"Locking up peaceful protesters is a textbook human rights abuse and the hallmark of authoritarian regimes," she tweeted.

Congresswoman Cori Bush also criticised the crackdown, likening it to Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

"Shame on the Palestinian Authority," tweeted Bush. "Suppressing dissent and criminalizing protest only deepens the violence of Israel’s apartheid system. We stand with Palestinians against the violence of the Palestinian Authority’s authoritarianism. Freedom for political prisoners now."

In the Senate, Chris Murphy issued a statement calling for those involved in Banat's death to be held accountable, adding that the recent arrests "seriously call the Palestinian Authority's commitment to accountability into question".

"Members of the Palestinian security forces responsible for Nizar Banat's death must be held accountable. But recent reports that nearly 30 human rights defenders were arrested for protesting his killing seriously calls the Palestinian Authority’s commitment to accountability into question," he said.

"[The PA] must do more to tackle corruption and end the campaign of harassment against civil society," he added.

The PA has been facing large protests since Banat's death. Dozens of Palestinian activists have been arrested, beaten or otherwise injured while participating in demonstrations, while others have been detained for criticising the PA on social media.

A senior US official warned in July that the PA was "like a dry forest waiting to catch on fire" because of its mounting unpopularity amid economic strains and a crackdown on dissent.

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