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Hamas member dies in Amman after release from jail

A Hamas preacher died in a Jordan hospital on Tuesday, months after his release from a West Bank jail run by loyalists of the rival Fatah group led by President Mahmoud Abbas.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Hamas preacher died in a Jordan hospital on Tuesday, months after his release from a West Bank jail run by loyalists of the rival Fatah group led by President Mahmoud Abbas.

Kamal Abu Toameh's death sparked accusations by his family that he died from abuse while in detention.

Thousands of angry Hamas supporters also took to the streets in Hamas-ruled Gaza to protest his death.

They blamed Abbas and his Fatah faction for his death, a charge echoed by a Hamas lawmaker and spokesman. Hamas lawmaker Ismail Ashqar said: "Abbas and his gangs are responsible for this murder and for this dirty, ugly crime, and they will be responsible for the consequences."

"Hamas believes Abbas' security agency killed Kamal Abu Toameh," spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in Gaza.

Abu Toameh suffered a series of brain strokes during a nine-month stint in a West Bank prison, according to his nephew, Thaer Abu Toameh. His son, Sayyaf Abu Toameh, made a similar statement on a Hamas Web site.

Palestinian human rights groups have consistently accused Hamas and Fatah of beating and sometimes torturing rivals in detention. Both groups deny abusing prisoners.

Abu Toameh was arrested by Fatah in September in the Palestinian Fawar refugee camp in the West Bank. He was released in March. Last week, he was moved to King Hussein Medical Center in the Jordanian capital Amman for treatment, but he fell into a coma after brain surgery and never regained consciousness.

Abu Toameh spent nine years in Israeli jails and was also exiled to southern Lebanon alongside hundreds of Hamas members in the early 1990s.

His death comes at a time of heightened tension between Fatah and Hamas, which have harshly cracked down on each other's loyalists since Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in June 2007.

Fatah is currently holding its first convention in two decades in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, but Gaza's Hamas rulers have prevented hundreds of Fatah delegates living in Gaza from leaving to attend.

Hamas is demanding that Fatah first release hundreds of Hamas loyalists from West Bank prisons.