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Eight of Arafat’s bodyguards tried in beating death of laborer

July 1, 1997

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) _ A commander in Yasser Arafat’s bodyguard unit today denied ordering his men to fatally beat a neighbor who insulted the commander’s wife. His men initially admitted the beating but then recanted.

Lt. Col. Fathi Freihat and seven bodyguards, members of the Palestinian’s elite Force 17, are being tried by a military tribunal in the death of 28-year-old Nasser Radwan.

Prosecutor Khaled Hamad said Freihat ordered his unit to arrest Radwan in his Gaza City home on June 23. Neighbors said Radwan apparently angered Freihat by telling the commander’s wife to dress more modestly, in line with Islamic tradition.

According to the charges, the bodyguards took Radwan to a Force 17 detention center, where they beat him in the head with a stick. Freihat joined in the beating, the charges said. Eventually, Radwan was taken to a Gaza City hospital. He died Monday.

Freihat denied the charges, saying, ``Everything that was said is a lie.″

The other seven initially pleaded guilty but changed their pleas today on advice from their lawyers.

The killing brought to 14 the number of Palestinians who have died in detention since Arafat took control in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1994, human rights activists say.

Palestinian police have becoming increasingly concerned over brutality cases. The Gaza Strip’s commander, Ghazi Jabali, has been running ads in Palestinian newspapers in the past two days, asking those with complaints against policemen to come forward.

Update hourly