The Palestinian Authority on Sunday accused Israel of torturing to death Palestinian inmate Arafat Shalish Shahin Jaradat, who died in jail on Saturday, setting the stage for a dramatic escalation of ongoing protests in the West Bank.
Israeli officials said Jaradat died of a heart attack, and denied he was beaten or subjected to any treatment that could have led to his death.
The PA convened a press conference to issue its accusations of blame against Israel – a step certain to raise tensions surrounding Jaradat’s scheduled funeral on Monday.
“The information we have received so far is shocking and painful; the evidence corroborates our suspicion that Mr. Jaradat died as a result of torture, especially since the autopsy clearly proved that the victim’s heart was healthy, which disproves the initial alleged account presented by occupation authorities that he died of a heart attack,” Palestinian Authority Minister of Detainees Issa Karake said at the press conference Sunday evening.
Dr. Saber Aloul, director of the Palestinian Forensic Medicine Institute, who participated in the autopsy conducted by pathologists at the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute, claimed to have determined that markings on Jaradat’s body proved that he was beaten and tortured to death.
Aloul detailed eight findings to back up his accusations, including injuries and severe bruising in the upper right back area; severe bruises of sharp circular shape in the right chest area; evidence of severe torture on the muscle of the upper left shoulder and parallel to the spine in the lower neck area, and evidence of severe torture under the skin and inside the muscle of the right side of the chest. He said Jaradat’s heart was in good condition and there were no signs of bruising or stroke. He also cited a broken second and third ribs in the right side of the chest, and injuries in the middle of the muscle of the right hand.
Karake concluded by asserting “the full responsibility of the Israeli occupation for this crime,” reiterating that “States party to the UN Charter and relevant international conventions, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, have a standing legal and international responsibility to compel Israel to respect the law and stop the use of torture as well as holding Israel accountable for its clear violations of international law and the rights of Palestinian prisoners.”
Israel’s Health Ministry issued a statement saying that no visible signs were detected on Jaradat’s body, aside from those made by resuscitation efforts and a small graze on his chest. It ascribed some of the injuries cited by Aloul to resuscitation efforts.
“Two internal bleeds were detected, one on the shoulder and one on the right side of the chest. Two ribs were broken, which may indicate resuscitation attempts. The initial findings cannot determine the cause of death,” read the Israeli statement. “At this stage, until microscopic and toxicology reports are in, the cause of death cannot be tied to the autopsy findings.”
No evidence of disease was found during the autopsy either.
The autopsy’s official findings will be forwarded in two weeks to the PA and to Israel’s international criminal investigation unit. Custody of Jaradat’s body was handed over to his family after the inspection.
His funeral was set for Monday, and Israeli security forces were braced for major disturbances following a marked escalation in West Bank protests in recent days.
Several thousand Palestinian prisoners held by Israel observed a one-day fast Sunday to protest Jaradat’s death. The Palestinian announcement – that he was tortured to death – was expected to further escalate the situation, which some have already described as marking the beginning of a third Intifada.
In recent days, protests often turned into violent clashes with soldiers across the West Bank.
The IDF said its security forces were on high alert throughout the West Bank. Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Eitan Dangot held several phone conversations with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, urging him to do everything possible to lower the flames.
Former Palestinian security chief Jibril Rajoub, speaking in Hebrew on Israel Radio, tried to reassure Israelis, declaring Sunday “on behalf of the entire Palestinian leadership that there is no plan to lead to bloodshed.”
The Shin Bet said Jaradat was arrested last Monday, after residents in his West Bank village of Si’ir, in the Hebron area, said he was involved in a rock-throwing attack that injured an Israeli. Jaradat confessed to the charge, as well as to another West Bank rock-throwing incident last year, the Shin Bet said.
The agency said that during interrogation, he was examined several times by a doctor who detected no health problems. On Saturday, he was in his cell and felt unwell after lunch, the agency said. “Rescue services and a doctor were alerted and treated him, but they didn’t succeed in saving his life,” the statement said.
Jaradat, father of a 4-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son, worked as a gas station attendant. His wife, Dalal, is pregnant, relatives said.