Female Palestinian Journalists Attacked by Abbas’ Security Forces at Protest over Activist’s Death

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Several female Palestinian journalists were assaulted by Palestinian security forces while reporting on a demonstration against the brutal killing of a prominent critic of Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas, the Haaretz daily reported over the weekend.

According to the report five women, whose ID clearly identified them as journalists, testified members of the PA security forces in civilian clothes, or members of the Abbas’ ruling Fatah faction, attacked them.

The women sustained injuries from rocks and tear gas and one of them had her hand broken from the beatings, the report said. It added they were also the recipients of “crude remarks” by security officers.

All of them had their phones confiscated and four of them have not had them returned. The report cited one of the journalists, Fatin Alwan, as saying after the demonstration she discovered she was on the “shaming list” of a Fatah Facebook page and was further accused of having ties to the United States.

The report said:

Later it turned out that the phones were then hacked, and personal details and real – or fabricated – photos were posted on a special Facebook page. The page has since been taken down, but some fear that it succeeded in its mission of creating the impression that the women who took part in the demonstrations were “promiscuous” – according to conservative-patriarchal standards – an impression that’s supposed to blunt the shock of the suppression of the demonstrations.

The demonstration was to protest the death of Nizar Banat, 44, a longtime activist known for accusing the PA of corruption and fraud who was killed after being beaten by more than two dozen PA security officers in his home while he was asleep.

According to his family, around 25 officers stripped Banat naked and beat him with clubs and iron bars while he was asleep. They also used pepper spray on him.

An autopsy on Saturday showed Banat died as a result of blood filling his lungs.

Following the march of thousands of angry Palestinians outside Abbas’s presidential compound in Ramallah demanding his immediate resignation over Banat’s death, the United Nations, the U.S. State Department and the European Union (E.U.) called for a transparent investigation.

The E.U., the largest donor to the Palestinian Authority, said it was “shocked and saddened” by Banat’s death.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, who was appointed by Abbas, subsequently ordered the formation of a committee to investigate Banat’s death. However, the security forces who beat Banat have yet to be questioned since the promise to form a committee was made more than a week and a half ago.

Banat had already been detained several times by Palestinian security forces under the PA’s controversial cybercrimes law, in which online activists can face arrest for “slandering” the government.

According to the report, Banat was also a parliamentary candidate in the recently canceled Palestinian elections.

Abbas canceled the elections, the first to be held in 15 years, a month before they were due to take place — prompting many critics, including Banat, to accuse the aging president of doing so to avoid a crushing defeat by rivals in both his own Fatah faction and the Hamas terror group – whose popularity in the West Bank has soared in recent months.

Palestinians are routinely arrested by the PA for what it calls “political reasons.”


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