Australia’s aid sector and human rights advocates are appalled today after one of the longest legal trials for Palestinian detainees in Israeli history has concluded, with World Vision’s Gaza Manager, Mohammed El Halabi, found guilty on all but one of the counts against him.
Mr El Halabi was arrested and detained by Israeli forces six years ago, and was accused of diverting US$50 million of aid money, including from Australia, to Hamas.
The trial was surrounded by controversy from the beginning, with reports of torture and beatings, a lack of due process, and independent investigations commissioned by the Australian Government and World Vision finding no evidence to support the charges.
Before the trial had even begun, then Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, released a video stating as fact Mr El Halabi had stolen money, clearly marking the trial as political.
“Today, Israel has convicted a man without any clear evidence against him,” Australia Palestine Advocacy Network President, Bishop George Browning said.
“Mr El Halabi has been subjected to torture, and a judicial process which fails every test of a fair trial – with UN experts stating his arrest, interrogation, and trial are ‘not worthy of a democratic state’.
“World Vision has been intimately connected to the trial and assert that he is innocent.
“DFAT and World Vision commissioned audits found absolutely no evidence of missing funds, nor any evidence Mr El Halabi was connected to Hamas.
“He has already been imprisoned for six years without any evidence to justify his incarceration, and Australia must call for his immediate release.”
Recently retired Australian Federal MP, Chris Hayes, was also appalled at the verdict, and said the outcome was a “miscarriage of justice”.
“I owe it to Mr El Halabi’s father, who has maintained regular contact with myself throughout this drawn out-legal battle and never gave up hope for his son to continue this advocacy as a concerned member of the international community,” Mr Hayes said.
“The court’s decision is brought into question, given that there is no clear evidence against Mr El Halabi and all reputable independent audits have found no evidence of the charges against Mr El-Halabi.
“All nations, particularly those who purport to be developed democratic nations, must remain accountable for human rights and uphold due process and the rule of law.
“I call on the Albanese Labor Government to take a direct interest in this matter and secure Mr El Halabi’s safe and timely release.”
The case brought against Mr El Halabi is part of an ongoing trend by Israeli authorities of using the legal system, and threats of terrorism, to undermine aid, development, and civil society projects operating in the occupied Palestinian Territories.
Mr El Halabi was arrested on claims of funding terrorists without evidence. Last year, six key Palestinian civil society and human rights groups were also proscribed as terrorist organisations by Israeli authorities without evidence, with UN experts calling on the international community to ignore the designations.
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For more information, contact Jarred – [email protected] – 0434 869 088