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Palestinian Authority releases accused assassins of activist

Palestinians rally to denounce the Palestinian Authority following the violent arrest and death in custody of activist Nizar Banat, in Ramallah, occupied West Bank, on August 2, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has granted bail to 14 members of its security forces, who have been accused of assassinating a prominent Palestinian rights activist and PA critic.

The officers were released on the condition that they turn up for their pending court hearings, a ranking Palestinian security official Wednesday.

Nizar Banat, who was an outspoken critic of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas as well as the authority's security coordination with Israel, died in June 2021 shortly after security forces stormed his home in the southern West Bank city of al-Khalil, beating him violently and dragging him away.

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

Back in February, a report by the Doha-based Al Jazeera broadcaster revealed details of his murder.

Quoting Dr. Samir Abu Zaarour, who was in charge of Banat’s autopsy, Al Jazeera reported that traces of 42 blows had been observed on the victim's body, which was covered by bruises and scratches.

The PA has alleged that the risk of COVID-19’s spreading in the West Bank prison, where the forces used to be held, has been the reason for the release of the suspects. 

Jihan Banat, the activist’s widow, slammed the PA's justification.

"The murderer cannot be a judge," she said, describing the decision to release the suspects on bail as "political."

"If the Palestinian Authority is worried about the spread of the coronavirus, why doesn't it release all the other prisoners held on charges?" she asked.

Banat's brother, Ghassan, read a statement in response to the decision, saying that the "international judiciary is the only path" towards achieving justice.

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