Abbas fires senior official who criticized PA over death of critic

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has fired the director of Ramallah’s national library after he criticized the government over the death of an activist in the custody of Palestinian security forces.

In a letter obtained by The Times of Israel and The Associated Press on Tuesday, Ehab Bessaiso was removed from the post, as well as from the library’s board of directors.

The letter, dated June 27 and signed by Abbas, did not give a reason for the dismissal. But it came three days after Bessaiso wrote a long Facebook post that criticized the death of Nizar Banat, an outspoken critic of the Palestinian Authority.

“Nothing justifies committing a crime,” wrote Bessaiso, a former Cabinet minister and government spokesman. “Killing a human being is a crime, no matter how blurry, ambiguous and emotional the picture seems.”

“Difference in opinion is not an epidemic, or an emergency, or a justification for bloodshed,” he added.

Banat died in custody shortly after he was arrested by Palestinian security forces. His family has said he was beaten as he was taken out of his home. It has accused the PA of trying to cover up the death.

Banat’s death has prompted weeks of protests. Palestinian officials have said the matter is under investigation.

Maryam Banat, 67, mother of Palestinian Authority critic Nizar Banat holds a poster with his picture while attending a rally protesting his death, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on July 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

The Palestinian Authority is widely viewed as corrupt and authoritarian, with a recent poll showing that support for Abbas, who took power for what was supposed to be a four-year term in 2005, has plummeted.

Abbas has faced mounting pressure after calling off parliamentary elections when it appeared that his Fatah party would suffer a crushing defeat to the rival Hamas militant group.

Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.

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