Family of slain activist Nizar Banat: We don’t trust Palestinian courts

Banat was beaten to death by PA officers who arrested him. His death sparked a wave of protests by Palestinian human rights activists.

 Palestinian demonstrators attend an anti-Palestinian Authority protest in Ramallah, August 2, 2021 (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)
Palestinian demonstrators attend an anti-Palestinian Authority protest in Ramallah, August 2, 2021
(photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)

The family of slain Palestinian political activist Nizar Banat said they have no confidence in the court proceedings where 14 officers are standing trial before a PA military court in Ramallah for their role in the killing of Banat in June.

The family announced on Sunday that the lawyer representing them at the trial, Gandhi Amin, has withdrawn from the court sessions after being verbally abused by the defendants’ lawyer.

The family called for the formation of an international committee representing Palestinians from different parts of the world to follow up on the case, which it described as a “national issue par excellence.”

“The lawyer withdrew from the court sessions and did not return after their bias and lack of seriousness was proven, and after they became a scene of chaos and clowning,” the family said in a statement.

Banat, 44, was killed shortly after he was detained by several Palestinian Authority security officers in Hebron.

An outspoken critic of the PA leadership, Banat was beaten to death by the officers who arrested him. His death sparked a wave of protests by Palestinian human rights activists.

 Palestinian security officers stand guard during a trial of security officers (not seen) over the death of Nizar Banat, a critic of President Mahmoud Abbas, in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank September 14, 2021 (credit: REUTERS/ALI SAWAFTA) Palestinian security officers stand guard during a trial of security officers (not seen) over the death of Nizar Banat, a critic of President Mahmoud Abbas, in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank September 14, 2021 (credit: REUTERS/ALI SAWAFTA)

Addressing the UN secretary-general, the UN high commissioner for human rights, the European Union and other international bodies, the statement issued by the Banat family accused the PA of “changing the course of truth and justice by using methods of procrastination, postponement, fabrication and childish behavior during court sessions.”

The family complained that the PA has failed to file charges against the head of the Preventive Security Force in Hebron, Maher Abu al-Halawa, for his alleged role in the death of Banat. The family also took the court to task for not ordering an investigation against the PA governor of Hebron, Jibreen al-Bakri, for issuing “a false and misleading statement after the assassination of Nizar.”

According to the family, a senior PA security official who testified before the court changed his statements before the judges and said things “full of contradictions and lies.”

The family also accused the court of failing to protect witnesses who have been targeted by Palestinian security forces in the past few months.

Hussein, a cousin of the slain activist and the main witness, was arrested by the PA General Intelligence Service for 11 days. Another cousin, Amjad, was also recently arrested by the Palestinian security forces for unknown reasons.

Palestinian security forces have raided and searched the homes of several members of the Banat family in the past few weeks.

During his testimony before the court, Hussein was threatened by the lawyer of the defendants, according to the family’s statement. Additionally, the defendants’ lawyer “attacked lawyer Gandhi Amin,” the statement added. “If the court wants to prove its impartiality, it must force the accused’s lawyer to publicly apologize to the witness and our lawyer.”