Palestinian dissident Nizar Banat (screenshot) (Youtube/Screenshot)
Nizar Banat

Nizar Banat frequently criticized the PA in videos and articles posted on Facebook, where he had more than 100,000 followers.

By United With Israel Staff

Nizar Banat, a high-profile Palestinian critic of the Palestinian Authority and its leader, President Mahmoud Abbas, died after being arrested by Palestinian security services on Thursday morning.

His cousin, Ammar Banat, said that around 25 Palestinian security forces stormed the home where Nizar was staying, blowing out doors and windows. They beat Nizar with an iron bar and sprayed pepper spray in his eyes before undressing him and dragging him away to a vehicle, Ammar told a local radio station, citing two other cousins who were present during the arrest.

The 44-year-old Banat was taken to a Hebron hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

A statement issued by the PA Governor of Hebron, Jibreen al-Bakri, said that a warrant had been issued for Banat’s arrest. “During the arrest, Banat’s health deteriorated and he was immediately transferred to the Hebron Hospital, where he was pronounced dead by the doctors,” al-Bakri said.

Banat frequently criticized PA corruption in videos and articles posted on Facebook, where he had more than 100,000 followers. Banat had also criticized the PA’s security cooperation with Israel, and more recently, the collapse of an agreement to transfer surplus Israeli Covid vaccines. He was detained by the PA numerous times.

Banat was a member of an opposition electoral list, which campaigned in the May elections that Abbas cancelled. After the election was scrapped, he called on the European Union to end financial aid to the PA, a move the ruling Fatah party said was a “redline.” Soon afterwards, unidentified gunmen opened fire on his home in Dura, near Hebron. Although Banat, his wife and children were present, nobody was injured.

His death came amidst a PA crackdown on political opponents. Earlier this week, Palestinian security forces detained Issa Amro, a prominent activist, and held him overnight after he unleashed a wave of criticism at the PA on Facebook. Amro is an outspoken critic of both Israel and the PA,

The PA has a controversial cybercrime law which criminalizes the “slandering” of Palestinian public institutions. The PA frequently uses this law to detain critics and stifle dissent.

In April, Facebook confirmed that individuals linked to the PA’s Preventive Security Service created fake accounts that sought to trick Palestinian journalists and political activists into downloading malware onto their phones. According to Facebook, the malware would have given the PSS access to victims’ contacts, text messages and locations.

Associated Press contributed to this report.