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PA President Fires Top Librarian for Criticizing Death in Custody of Activist

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas fired the director of the Palestinian national library in Ramallah, Ehab Bessaiso, after Bessaiso criticized the PA government over the death in custody of political activist Nizar Banat, an outspoken critic of the Authority. Abbas gave no reason for sacking Bessaiso, a 43-year-old poet, former culture minister and government spokesman, but the firing came three days after Bessaiso wrote a long Facebook post in which he described Banat’s death shortly after he was arrested and beaten by Palestinian security forces as a crime. “Difference in opinion is not an epidemic, or an emergency, or a justification for bloodshed,” he wrote. It was reported in 2017 that Abbas had decided to repurpose the lavish presidential palace and guesthouse for foreign dignitaries then under construction on the outskirts of Ramallah as the future home of the Palestinian national library. Whether Abbas, after ousting Bessaiso, has plans to take back his house, remains to be seen.