Thousands of people accompanied Nizar Banat’s coffin through the streets of occupied West Bank, many of them chanting “the people want the fall of the regime” and “leave, leave Abbas”.

People attend the funeral of Palestinian critic Nizar Banat, who died while in custody of the Palestinian Authority's security forces, in Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on June 25, 2021.
People attend the funeral of Palestinian critic Nizar Banat, who died while in custody of the Palestinian Authority's security forces, in Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on June 25, 2021. (Reuters)

Palestinian mourners have called for a change of government as they marched through Hebron for the funeral of one of President Mahmoud Abbas's most prominent critics, who died after he was arrested by security forces.

Thousands of people accompanied Nizar Banat's coffin through the streets of the occupied West Bank city on Friday, many of them chanting "the people want the fall of the regime" and "leave, leave Abbas".

Palestinian Authority (PA) forces broke into Banat's house, roughed him up and arrested him on Thursday before he died in custody.

Some waved Palestinian flags and others the flag of Hamas, Abbas's rivals in Gaza. 

Protesters also gathered in Ramallah and outside East Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque.

READ MORE: What's behind Palestinian frustration with Mahmoud Abbas?

Death of critic

Banat's family said PA forces broke into his house in the city in the early hours of Thursday and hit him repeatedly with a metal rod before arresting him.

He suffered blows to the head, the PA's Independent Commission for Human Rights said after conducting an autopsy.

Abbas' Palestinian Authority said it would hold an inquiry but has not commented on the accusations. Its governor for Hebron, Jibrin al Bakri, said Banat died when his health "deteriorated" during his arrest.

Banat, 43, was a social activist who had accused Abbas's PA of corruption, including over a short-lived Covid-19 vaccine exchange with Israel this month and Abbas's postponement of a long-delayed election in May.

Banat had registered as a parliamentary candidate for that contest.

READ MORE: Autopsy shows head blows in death of Abbas critic as UN seeks probe

Denying accusations

Human rights groups say that Abbas, who has ruled the PA by decree for well over a decade, regularly arrests his critics. A Human Rights Watch official said Banat's arrest was "no anomaly". Abbas denies the accusations.

The United States, United Nations and European Union called on the PA to conduct a "transparent" inquiry into Banat's death.

Hamas, which rules Gaza and saw a surge in popularity after heavy Israel air strikes on the region in May, called on Palestinians to rise up and "put a final end to the widespread violation by the (PA) against the freedoms and rights of our people".

Abbas and the PA, which exercises limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank, reject accusations they are corrupt and that they arrest people for their political views. They also deny torture.

READ MORE: Is the Palestinian Authority on the verge of collapse?

Source: Reuters