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Palestinians fire official who criticized activist's death

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FILE - In this May 12, 2021 file photo, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks a meeting of the PLO executive committee and a Fatah Central Committee at the Palestinian Authority headquarters, in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Abbas fired Ehab Bessaiso, the director of the Palestinian national library, after he criticized the death of Nizar Banat, an outspoken critic of the Palestinian Authority. A letter, dated June 27, 2021, and signed by Abbas, did not give a reason for the dismissal. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed, File)

JERUSALEM (AP) — President Mahmoud Abbas has fired the director of the Palestinian 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 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 Palestinian Authority of trying to cover up the death.

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

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.

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