Palestinian minister withdraws threat to quit over activist death

Nasri Abu Jaish says Palestinian PM Mohammad Shtayyeh twice refused to accept his resignation, leading him to continue in government.

Palestinian demonstrators lift placards during a rally in Ramallah denouncing the Palestinian Authority [File: Abbas Momani/AFP]

The Palestinian Authority labour minister who declared he would resign amid protests over the death of an activist in custody will ultimately remain in office, he said on Sunday.

Nasri Abu Jaish, who is also the representative of the left-wing People’s Party in the government, said late June he would quit the Fatah-led PA due to “its lack of respect for laws and public freedoms”.

Abu Jaish had announced his pending resignation as protesters demanded president Mahmoud Abbas step down, following the violent arrest and death in custody of activist Nizar Banat.

Banat, a 43-year-old known for social media videos denouncing alleged corruption within the PA, died on June 24 shortly after security forces stormed his house, beat him and dragged him away.

But on Sunday, Abu Jaish said in a statement that Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh had twice refused to accept his resignation, leading him to “continue in the Palestinian government as a minister of labour”.

The PA announced the opening of an investigation into Banat’s death, but demonstrators continued protesting weeks after.

On Sunday, hundreds of people in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah called for the resignation of Abbas, denouncing the Palestinian security’s use of force in quelling recent demonstrations.

“We will remain standing in the street until justice is achieved,” protester Maher Akhras said Sunday, accusing the PA of having “killed Nizar Banat and assaulted demonstrators”.

Banat had registered as a candidate in Palestinian parliamentary elections that were set for May, until Abbas postponed them indefinitely.

Samir Abu Zarzour, the doctor who carried out his autopsy, said injuries on Banat’s body indicated he had been beaten on the head, chest, neck, legs and hands, with less than an hour between his arrest and his death.

Demonstrators expressed anger at the lack of a democratic process in the territory.

“We have the right to elections, to elect our representatives and to elect a president,” protester Omar Assaf said.

“We need to rebuild the entire Palestinian political system.”

Protests in Ramallah sparked by Banat’s death in custody have continued for several weeks.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies