UN experts urge Israel to release aid chief Mohammed El-Halabi

UN experts urge Israel to release aid chief Mohammed El-Halabi
UN experts noted that Israeli authorities had engaged in a number of practices that led them to describe the trial as 'deeply flawed'.
2 min read
08 September, 2023
Mohammed El Halabi was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2022 on charges of diverting funds to Hamas [Getty]

UN experts on Wednesday urged Israeli authorities to release an imprisoned Palestinian aid worker due to concerns over Israel's conduct in his pretrial detention and conviction.

UN experts described the imprisonment of Mohammed El-Halabi as being "based on deeply flawed proceedings and egregious violations to the right to a fair trial".

El-Halabi, the programme director of World Vision in Gaza, was arrested at the Erez border between Israel and Gaza in June 2016 under accusations that he had been diverting money to Hamas.

In June 2022 an Israeli court found him guilty of funnelling $50 million and tons steel to Hamas. Other charges include membership of Hamas and taking part in military exercises. He was subsequently sentenced to 12 years in prison in August 2022 and his appeal hearings have been repeatedly postponed.

UN experts stated that during the proceedings Israeli authorities presented little evidence during the open court, and made "extensive use of secret evidence, closed-door hearings" whilst also setting restrictions on his lawyer's access to El-Halabi or preparations for his defence.

A probe by the Australian government, which froze funding to World Vision following El-Halabi's arrest, found no evidence of embezzlement by El-Halabi.

The UN also noted that his subjection to solitary confinement and beatings that led to hearing loss in one ear during his six-year pretrial detention "may amount to torture and coercion to provide a confession".

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They further stated El-Halabi’s "prolonged pretrial detention and repeated postponements of his appeal hearings demonstrate blatant disregard for the right to a fair trial" and that his detention could be considered "arbitrary under international human rights law".

The UN said that it had received no response when it contacted Israeli authorities over El-Halabi’s case in 2020 and 2022.

Amnesty International also called for the release of El-Halabi in May this year, calling the proceedings "deeply flawed".