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Israel/OPT: Quash flawed conviction of aid worker Mohammed al-Halabi

Amnesty International is calling on Israeli authorities to quash the conviction of Mohammed al-Halabi, a Palestinian aid worker from Gaza who was yesterday found guilty in a deeply flawed trial of diverting millions of dollars to the Hamas de facto administration. The majority of the evidence used against him remains secret.

Mohammed al-Halabi, who was formerly the head of US-based charity World Vision’s Gaza office, has already spent six years in pre-trial detention. Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:

“The Israeli authorities’ treatment of Mohammed al-Halabi violates all the basic guarantees on due process which are set out in international human rights law. He was detained for a staggering six years before the verdict, interrogated without legal representation, tried in secret hearings, and convicted on secret evidence and a forced “confession”.

“Israeli authorities have utterly disregarded Mohammed al-Halabi’s allegations that he was tortured and ill-treated in detention. Yesterday’s verdict is unsafe and unjust, and simply serves to highlight how the Israeli justice system is rigged against Palestinians.  

“Mohammed al-Halabi should be retried in proceedings that meet international fair trial standards or released. There must be an investigation into his allegations of ill-treatment, and any unlawfully obtained evidence, includingthrough torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, must be excluded. Mohammed al-Halabi’s case is one of many which illustrates how Israeli authorities, who are perpetrating the crime against humanity of apartheid, use the justice system to dominate and discriminate against Palestinians.”

Background

Mohammed al-Halabi worked for World Vision since 2005, and in 2014 was promoted to manage the charity’s operations in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli Security Agency arrested him on 15 June 2016 at the Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza. He was transferred to a detention centre at Ashkelon, Israel, where he was interrogated before being moved to Nafcha prison in the Negev desert. 

Mohammed al-Halabi was denied access to a lawyer and held incommunicado for the first weeks of detention, facing intensive interrogations without legal representation. According to his lawyer and media reports, he was severely beaten and his ‘confession’ to stealing 7.4 million USD a year was obtained under duress. His allegations of torture have not been investigated. Mohammed al-Halabi was not charged with a crime until 4 August, more than seven weeks after his arrest. 

An investigation by World Vision, including an external audit, found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by Mohammed al-Halabi or of his membership in Hamas.