RAMALLAH, West Bank (AFP) – A senior Hamas leader in the West Bank said on Sunday he met president Mahmud Abbas after an imam who was in the Islamist movement died while in the custody of Palestinian security forces.
Nassereddin al-Shaer, who served as deputy prime minister under dismissed Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya, told AFP that he and Ali al-Sartawi, another senior Hamas leader, met Abbas on Saturday for private talks.
Shaer declined to give any details about what was discussed at the meeting which came after Majed al-Barghuti, a Hamas imam, died in police custody on Friday in Ramallah.
Hamas has accused Palestinian security forces of torturing the 42-year-old to death in prison and said Abbas’s government in the Israel-occupied West Bank bears “full responsibility for the murder of the martyr.”
There was no immediate comment from Abbas’s office.
Abbas has meanwhile ordered his forces to investigate Barghuti’s death, which security officials initially said was caused by a heart attack.
The incident aggravated already bitter divisions between Abbas’s Palestinian Authority and the Islamist Hamas movement, which ousted Abbas’s forces from the Gaza Strip last June after a week of deadly clashes.
Since the takeover Abbas has refused all contact with Hamas unless it returns Gaza to his control, a condition Hamas has repeatedly rejected.
Palestinian security forces have meanwhile arrested scores of Hamas members across the West Bank and clamped down on the movement’s activities there.