Palestinians call for Abbas' resignation at Ramallah protest over activist's death

Palestinians call for Abbas' resignation at Ramallah protest over activist's death
Palestinians demanded the resignation of President Mahmoud Abbas in a protest marking 40 days since the death of Nizar Banat.
2 min read
03 August, 2021
Hundreds of Palestinians protested in Ramallah [Getty]

Hundreds of Palestinians marched on the streets of Ramallah on Monday calling for the resignation of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, marking 40 days since the death of activist Nizar Banat in police custody.

Protesters raised portraits of Banat, who died in PA detention in the city of Hebron in June, chanting: "Abbas, dissolve the authority and get out."

Plain-clothed security officials tried to arrest some of the protesters but managed to escape, according to Arabi21. It marked the latest attempt by PA security forces to suppress protests and criticism of Abbas in the occupied Palestinian Territories.

In response, Prime Minister Mohamed Shtayyeh pledged during his weekly cabinet meeting to preserve freedom of opinion and expression.

He said: "We reiterate our emphasis on preserving freedom of opinion and expression, in line with what is stated in the basic law, international conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

He added that these agreements "provide that every person has the right to express his opinion, and to publish it verbally, in writing, or by other means of expression, taking into account the provisions of the law".

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Jibril Rajoub, a member of the Central Committee of the Fatah movement - which is headed by Abbas - said on Monday that the PA bears responsibility for the death of Banat.

He said the case is now with the military judiciary, urging Banat's family "to be reasonable" and not to "politicise or internationalise the case".

In a statement, Banat's family rejected Rajoub's call. "The martyrdom of Nizar Banat is a political issue," they said, adding that "the internationalisation of the case is inevitable".

Banat, 44, a resident of Dura, near Hebron, was known for his caustically sarcastic videos tearing into the PA leadership. Banat was reportedly beaten after security forces raided his home and apprehended him.

Banat had criticised the authority's close security coordination with Israel - seen by many Palestinians as a betrayal - and corruption in a series of posts and live videos on Facebook. He also lashed out at President Abbas in April after he called off what would have been the first Palestinian elections in 15 years. Banat was an opposition candidate for the poll.

His family said security PA forces stormed Banat's bedroom while he was sleeping and beat him, inflicting head wounds, before removing him from his home. He died shortly afterward in custody promoting weeks of protests.

On 5 July, at least six activists were arrested by security forces when protesting outside the Palestinian Authority headquarters. Multiple witnesses said the police used pepper spray and beat protesters with batons.