Nizar Banat: Palestinian officers charged over activist's death

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Why Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are protesting against their own government

Fourteen officers from the Palestinian security services are to be charged over the death in custody of prominent activist Nizar Banat.

Banat died shortly after being badly beaten during an arrest raid on 24 June in Hebron, in the occupied West Bank.

A security forces spokesman told Wafa news agency that the officers were all accused of taking part in the beating.

Banat's killing sparked rare protests against the Palestinian Authority and was condemned by the UN, US and EU.

He had attracted a following with videos in which he accused Palestinian leaders of corruption, and denounced their co-operation on security matters with Israeli forces.

The Palestinian Authority governs parts of the West Bank that are not under full Israeli control.

Banat, who was 42, was spending the night at his cousin's home in a part of Hebron under Israeli security control when it was raided by Preventive Security Service officers.

His family alleged that the officers stormed into the room where he was sleeping and then began beating him with metal bars. He was later taken away by the officers and died while in their custody.

A Palestinian human rights group said a post mortem indicated that Banat's death was "unnatural", with evidence of "bruises and abrasions in many areas of the body", including the head, neck and chest, as well as "binding marks on the wrists and rib fractures".

On Monday, Palestinian security forces spokesman Gen Talal Dweikat told Wafa that military prosecutors had completed their investigation after more than two months and decided to charge a Preventive Security Service commander and 13 other officers who were involved in Banat's arrest.

They were "accused of taking part in the beating that caused the death of Banat", as well as "abuse of power and violating military instructions", he said.

Banat's death sparked widespread public anger and weeks of protests calling for a fully transparent investigation and the prosecution of those responsible.

Palestinian security forces used tear gas and stun grenades to break up the demonstrations and arrested dozens of people who took part in them. Further protests are being planned.