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14 Palestinian security members to face military trial over death of political activist

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Maryam Banat, 67, mother of Palestinian Authority critic Nizar Banat, holds a poster with his picture at a rally protesting his death, in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, on July 3, 2021. (Photo by AP)

Fourteen officers from the Palestinian Preventive Security Service (PSS) will face a military trial after being formally accused of killing prominent activist Nizar Banat while he was in custody.

Banat, 43, was detained in the early hours of June 24, when security forces stormed his home in al-Khalil (Hebron) in the southern part of the occupied West Bank, and shortly afterward the Palestinian Authority (PA) officially announced that the political activist had lost his life.

A postmortem examination revealed that Banat, a human rights defender, had been beaten on the head, chest, neck, legs, and hands, saying that he had died less than an hour after his arrest. His death triggered rare protests against the PA and drew global condemnation.

Banat was a leading critic of the PA and its head, President Mahmoud Abbas.

On Monday, Palestinian Security Services spokesman General Talal Dweikat said that military prosecutors had completed their investigation after more than two months and a commander and 13 other officers of the PSS had been formally accused of taking part in “beatings causing death, abuse of power and violations of security instructions.”

Banat’s family stresses that the West Bank-based PA does not hold the necessary capacity to dispense justice and thus, last month called for launching an international investigation into the case, particularly seeking intervention from British police and the United Nations.

“The so-called investigation that was carried out into his murder is an embarrassment and the PA should feel ashamed of it,” said Nizar's brother Ghasan Khalil Banat.

However, the PA, particularly Premier Mohammed Shtayyeh, has pledged accountability and ordered a full probe.

According to the PA’s justice system, a Palestinian military court will conduct the trial.

In a number of videos, Banat had accused Palestinian leaders of alleged corruption and condemned their purported cooperation on security issues with Israeli forces.

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