Justice for Mohammed Halabi #Justice4Halabi
Justice for Mohammed Halabi #Justice4Halabi
Dear Friends and Family,
We are asking for your help in seeking #Justice4Halabi. Upon returning home after a meeting in Jerusalem in 2016, World Vision Gaza Director Muhammad El-Halabi was arrested on the false charges of diverting millions of dollars of Australian aid money to Hamas, importing heavy metal rods for Hamas' underground tunnels, and aiding in their military expansion. At his trial, no physical evidence was presented to support any of these charges. Likewise, World Vision conducted its own investigation into these charges. After multiple audits and investigations by both World Vision and the Australian government, they found no evidence that any money had gone missing. Israel, which had confiscated all of World Vision’s records and computers in Gaza and had access to all border crossing records, could not provide any evidence of Halabi, or even World Vision, having ever used the only crossing between Gaza and Israel that imports such materials. Despite there being no credible evidence by prosecutors, Halabi has been imprisoned for more than five years and also been denied bail.
Ask about him to anyone that knows him, and the first thing they will say about Mohammed El-Halabi is how caring and kind his heart is. Halabi was born a refugee and grew up in Jabalia, Gaza Strip's largest refugee camp. Growing up, he had an interest in fixing the world around him and helping his fellow Palestinians. A humanitarian at heart, Halabi would eventually leave his engineering career for aid work at the global nonprofit and charity organization, World Vision. As a result of his efforts, he quickly rose to become the head of World Vision's Gaza office and a beloved member of and beacon of light to the Gazan community. In 2012, he was awarded the U.N Humanitarian Hero Award for his aid work in Gaza.
From the beginning, it was clear that the evidence against Halabi was lacking, but that his arrest was being used to silence World Vision and other humanitarian organizations working in Gaza and keep them from speaking up about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. He courageously withstood 50 days of torture and interrogations, refusing to confess to the false charges levelled against him. Halabi is insistent on not confessing or signing a plea bargain for a crime he did not commit, or supporting a lie created by the Israeli government meant to stop much needed aid from getting to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. As he continued to refuse a plea bargain for a crime he did not commit, the Israeli prosecutor’s behavior became more and more bizarre, relying on “secret evidence” to hide their utter failure to prove their case. Israeli courts have declared significant portions of Halabi's trial a "secret," and because of this the defense has not been allowed to publicly discuss the “secret evidence” presented against him. Furthermore, the public allegations against Halabi and World Vision were contradicted by the prosecutor's own evidence as presented in court. Despite the plea offers, the court keeps delaying his verdict and denying him justice.
The Israeli prosecutor does not have evidence to prove that Halabi committed the crimes of which he is accused. Their case is full of contradictions, as based on their own statements. Arresting and imprisoning an innocent person without due process is a clear human rights violation and a denial of justice. It is not up to the defense to provide evidence that a defendant is innocent; it is the responsibility of the prosecutor to provide evidence of guilt for the defense to cross-examine and refute. Halabi's attorney stated that the only reason he can see for keeping the evidence secret is to spare the government the embarrassment of its weakness in this case. The fear of public humiliation was such that the defense lawyer was not even allowed to publicly reveal his own closing statement and defense. He was not even allowed to write his summation on his own computer. Instead, he was forced to use the Israeli prosecutor's computer and then read it in court before returning it to the Shin Bet.
With pressure from World Vision, the Australian government, the United Nations, and international supporters of Halabi to free him and drop all the charges, Israel has yet to make a verdict on Halabi's case and continues to keep him in prison. The Israeli courts and the prosecutor are in direct violation of their own stated laws, as written by the Israeli parliament, as well as international law. In fact, Halabi's attorney has complained to the Israeli Bar Association and Israeli Police Fraud department for false evidence and violations. Both institutions did nothing to change the course of the case. It is clear Halabi's case was created to stop humanitarian aid to Palestine and Gaza, and Halabi is an innocent man who has not been allowed justice.
The solution is clear: This charade of a trial must end. Israel must free Mohammed Halabi and drop all charges against him. And, World Vision must be allowed to resume its humanitarian work in Gaza.