RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian officials on Saturday demanded an international investigation into the death of a Palestinian detainee who died in an Israeli jail hours earlier.
A spokeswoman for Israel's Prison Authority said that the detainee, 30-year-old Arafat Jaradat, had apparently died of cardiac arrest. An emergency service team had tried to resuscitate him but failed, she said.
Tension over the issue of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel has risen over the past few weeks, with mass protests held in support of four inmates on hunger strike and dozens of demonstrators injured in ensuing clashes with Israeli forces.
"Our information was that Jaradat was being interrogated and then he died. Therefore we call for an international investigation into his death, that may have resulted from torture," Palestinian Minister of Prisoners Issa Qaraqea said.
Qaraqea did not elaborate on whether or not he had actual evidence of torture.
Israel's internal security service, Shin Bet, said in a statement that Jaradat began feeling ill after eating lunch, while he was resting, and that a police inquiry into the circumstances of his death had begun.
"During his interrogation ... on Thursday, Jaradat was examined numerous times by a doctor. No health problems were found in these examinations and the interrogation continued," the Shin Bet said.
Jaradat, according to Shin Bet, suffered from various health problems prior to his arrest, including back aches and injuries in his leg and stomach, sustained from a rubber bullet and a tear gas canister.
But Qadoura Fares, chairman of the Palestinian Prisoner Club, a leading association that cares for Palestinians in Israeli jails, said that according to the group's records, Jaradat did not suffer from any prior illness.
"Israel was responsible for his life," Fares said.
Jaradat was arrested this week under suspicion he was involved in stone-throwing that had wounded an Israeli in the occupied West Bank, the Shin Bet said.
Israel holds around 4,700 Palestinians in its prisons on charges ranging from throwing stones to killing Israelis. Palestinians widely regard them as heroes of their national struggle against Israel and want them all freed.
Reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Editing by Stephen Powell