Fall of West Bank torturer

The Palestinian Authority, which rules Gaza and parts of the West Bank, has sacked its chief law officer, notorious for his tolerance of torture, arbitrary arrests and killings by the Palestinian security forces, and is holding him under house arrest suspected of accepting bribes.

Brigadier General Zakariya Baloushi, a senior official of the Palestinian police in Gaza confirmed that Khalid al-Kidrah, the Palestinian Attorney General, has been fired because "he received bribes and commit-ted several violations". While not confirming that Mr al-Kidrah was formally under arrest Brig Gen Baloushi said: "It is better for him to be at home ...We are protecting him against angry people."

In his three years as Attorney General, Mr al-Kidrah became a symbol to Palestinians of everything rotten in the auto- nomous enclaves which they hope will become an independent state. Torture became endemic. In January, a business- man, Youssef Baba in Nablus, died of a gangrenous wound caused by burns from the electric element of a kettle pressed to his upper arm. He had been tortured over a month during which time he was admitted to a Nablus hospital five times. Palestinian military intelligence refused to let doctors amputate his arm to save his life.

Mr al-Kidrah was notorious for his refusal to respond to pleas from prisoners and their relatives. In January, Fayez al-Qumseih, died in Bethlehem of a heart attack brought on by a beating, though the local prosecutor had told Mr al-Kidrah two months before that there were no grounds for holding him, but the Attorney General had failed to order his release. The only time he showed any speed was in prosecuting journalists who criticised the Palestinian Authority.

The firing of Mr al-Kidrah at the end of last week is being greeted with relief by human rights organisations, who think it may be a turning point for the rule of law in Palestinian areas. Dr Iyad Sarraj, a psychiatrist and a leading human rights campaigner from Gaza, said yesterday: "The firing of the Attorney General marks a real change. He closed his eyes to any violation of human rights. Before, nobody would testify, everybody was scared." He says complaints of human rights violations have declined in recent months and, since Mr Baba was killed, Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, had ordered the Palestinian security forces to stop using torture.

Mr al-Kidrah himself denies charges of corruption. When The Independent published pictures of the bodies of Mr Baba and Mr al-Qumseih in February, he wrote to the paper to deny that he "viewed all Palestinian human rights activists as 'a fifth column'." He said that he himself had been imprisoned by Israel and added: "Allow me please to emphasise the simple fact that we here promptly and actively investigate all reports about human rights abuses."

This was news to Dr Sarraj, now the Palestinian Commissioner General for Human Rights, who was arrested three times in Gaza on the orders of Mr al-Kidrah for raising human rights issues, though this was never the official charge.

After being arrested last December, he was beaten, kicked and sentenced to 15 days in prison for assaulting an armed Palestinian policeman. On another occasion police used the fact that "I had a professor of psychiatry from Canada staying with me when I was arrested to suggest I was a Canadian spy."

The vulnerability of Dr Sarraj, a distinguished medical practitioner and Palestinian patriot, to arbitrary arrest showed the lack of restraint of the security services and police. He says: "During my interrogation they told me they had found a large piece of hashish in a drawer in my desk. I offered them $10,000 (pounds 6,100) if they showed me the drawer it came from because my desk has no drawers."

Mr al-Kidrah's fall was sudden. It followed the detention of a private lawyer who had knowledge of the former attorney general's financial affairs. Dr Sarraj says a member of the family of a prisoner would "pay the bail money, would not receive a receipt and the money would not be seen again". After an investigation, Freih Abu Medein, the Palestinian Justice Minister, insisted to Mr Arafat that Mr al-Kidrah be fired or he would resign. Mr Arafat agreed. Mr al-Kidrah was told to go.

The future for Mr al-Kidrah is unclear. Bassam Eid of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group said yesterday that he had been told by officials in the former attorney general's office that "his ID and passport are being held by the authorities". Dr Sarraj has written to Mr Arafat demanding that Mr al-Kidrah be given a trial, something denied to many prisoners when he was attorney general.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Freight Forward Senior Operator

£22000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This logistics firm are looking...

Recruitment Genius: Lead Marketing Specialist

£34500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A lead marketing specialist is required ...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician - 2nd / 3rd Line

£26000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Technician is req...

Recruitment Genius: Folder Gluer Operator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: There will be a number of exciting opportuniti...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map