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Palestinian minister withdraws threat to quit over activist death

Labour Minister Nasri Abu Jaish promised to resign after Nizar Banat's death in custody but now says he will remain in office
Nasri Abu Jaish said in a statement that Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, above, had twice refused to accept his resignation (File photo/AFP)

The Palestinian Authority labour minister who declared that he would resign amid protests over the death of an activist in custody will ultimately remain in office, he said on Sunday.

Nasri Abu Jaish, who is also the representative of the left-wing People's Party in the government, said in late June he would quit the Fatah-led PA due to "its lack of respect for laws and public freedoms", according to AFP.

Abu Jaish had announced his pending resignation as protesters demanded that President Mahmoud Abbas step down, following the violent arrest and death in custody of activist Nizar Banat.

Banat, a 43-year-old known for social media videos denouncing alleged corruption within the PA, died on 24 June shortly after security forces stormed his house, beat him and dragged him away.

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But on Sunday, Abu Jaish said in a statement that Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh had twice refused to accept his resignation, leading him to "continue in the Palestinian government as a minister of labour".

The PA announced the opening of an investigation into Banat's death, but demonstrators continued protesting for weeks after.

On Sunday, hundreds of people in Ramallah called for the resignation of Abbas, denouncing the Palestinian security's use of force in quelling recent demonstrations.

"We will remain standing in the street until justice is achieved," protester Maher Akhras said on Sunday, accusing the PA of having "killed Nizar Banat and assaulted demonstrators".

Banat had registered as a candidate in Palestinian parliamentary elections that were set for May, until Abbas postponed them indefinitely.

Demonstrators expressed anger at the lack of a democratic process in the territory.

"We have the right to elections, to elect our representatives and to elect a president," protester Omar Assaf said.

"We need to rebuild the entire political Palestinian system".