RAMALLAH // Palestinians today called for an international investigation of Israel's treatment of detained Palestinians, after a 30-year-old Palestinian died in custody and a hunger strike by four other inmates sparked a week of West Bank protests.
The death of Arafat Jaradat on Saturday raised new questions about Israel's Shin Bet security service, which has been accused by rights groups of mistreating Palestinians during interrogation.
Palestinian officials and the detainee's family alleged Jaradat was mistreated by Shin Bet, saying he was healthy at the time of his arrest last week. Israeli officials said Jaradat died of an apparent heart attack and denied he was beaten or subjected to any treatment that could have led to his death.
Several thousand Palestinian prisoners held by Israel observed a one-day fast today to protest Jaradat's death, which was bound to spur more Palestinian demonstrations in support of prisoners.
In all, Israel holds close to 4,600 Palestinians on a range of charges, from throwing stones at Israelis to involvement in deadly shooting and bombing attacks. Of the detainees, 159 are being held without charges or trial in so-called administrative detention.
The Shin Bet said Jaradat was arrested last Monday, after residents in his West Bank village of Saeer said he was involved in a rock-throwing attack that injured an Israeli. Jaradat admitted to the charge, as well to another West Bank rock-throwing incident last year, 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, they didn't succeed in saving his life," the statement said.
A Shin Bet spokesman said Jaradat was not beaten during his interrogation, nor was he subjected to any treatment that could have affected his health. Jaradat was not on a hunger strike and died of an apparent heart attack, said Sivan Weizman of the Israel Prisons Service.
Israel's main forensics institute was to perform an autopsy with a Palestinian physician in attendance.
Jaradat's family and Palestinian officials alleged that he was mistreated during interrogation. Jaradat, a father of a 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son, worked as a gas station attendant and his wife, Dalal, is pregnant, relatives said.
Issa Karake, who handles prisoner issues in the Palestinian Authority said he holds Israel responsible for Jaradat's death, alleging ill-treatment and medical negligence. Mr Karake called for an independent international investigation of Israel's treatment of Palestinian detainees.
The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem also demanded an investigation, including how Jaradat was questioned.
Jaradat's death comes at a time of daily Palestinian demonstrations in support of prisoners, especially four hunger strikers. The health of one of the hunger strikers has deteriorated.