SAIR, West Bank -- On the evening of Feb. 18, Israeli authorities arrested Arafat Jaradat, 30, on suspicion that he had thrown stones at Israeli soldiers. Five days later, he was dead. Now his story has come to symbolize what many Palestinians and human rights groups say are the torturous interrogation methods used by Israel's internal security service, the Shin Bet.
A spokeswoman for Israel Prison Services, Sivan Weizman, originally said that Jaradat had died in Meggido Prison of a heart attack. But a different picture emerged when Israel's Ministry of Health released a statement describing what doctors found during their autopsy.
"Two internal hemorrhages were detected, one on the shoulder and one on the right side of the chest," the statement said. "Two ribs were broken, which may indicate resuscitation attempts. The initial findings cannot determine the cause of death."
A Palestinian doctor who was involved in the autopsy told McClatchy Newspapers that Jaradat's body had "clear signs of torture."
"There was blood in his nose and in his throat. There were bruises across his body consistent with beatings that would have happened just before he died," said the doctor, who asked not be identified because the official autopsy results had not yet been released. "There was, in my opinion, clear evidence of torture."
Jaradat's death has triggered a wave of protest across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Thousands flooded the main square in this village for his funeral Monday, and thousands more, imprisoned in Israeli jails, declared a hunger strike that they vowed would not end until there is a broad-ranging agreement on prisoner rights.
Questions about Jaradat's demise abound.
Palestinian officials want to know why Dr. Yehuda Hiss, the former head of the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine, was placed in charge of the autopsy. Hiss was fired from his post as Israel's chief pathologist in October after allegations emerged of gross mismanagement at his forensic lab, included misplaced body parts and tissue.
Kamil Sabbagh, a lawyer who represented Jaradat in a preliminary hearing on Feb. 21, said that Jaradat complained that he was being treated harshly during his interrogations. Jaradat told his lawyer that he had sharp pains in his back and chest and that he was being interrogated for several hours each day.
Sabbagh filed a complaint with the court and requested that a physician examine Jaradat, but the request apparently was ignored.