Palestinian demonstrators take part in a protest in solidarity with Mohammad El Halabi, World Vision's manager of operations in Gaza who was accused by Israel of funnelling millions of dollars in aid money to Hamas, organised by foundations and societies benefiting from World Vision in Gaza City Aug.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Amnesty International, a human rights advocacy organization, has called on Israel to ensure a “fair and open” trial for Mohammed El-Halabi, the World Vision International staffer who was arrested on charges of funneling money to the Izzadin Kassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing.
In a report on its website on Monday, Amnesty International said that Israel initially “denied El-Halabi access to a lawyer.”
The human rights organization added that Israel has shrouded a number of details of El-Halabi’s case in secrecy, citing that his lawyer cannot disclose details of the charges against him.
Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International warned, “Secret trials are the most flagrant violation of the right to a public hearing.”
Amnesty International admits that international law allows states to hold trials in secret on the grounds of national security, but said that “Israeli authorities have not put forward a case to explain why such conditions are necessary for this trial.”
Mughrabi also called on Israel to investigate allegations that El-Halabi confessed to authorities under duress.
“The Israeli authorities must immediately investigate the allegations that El-Halabi was mistreated in custody and may have been forced into ‘confessing’ under duress,” Mughrabi said.
Separately, Mughrabi asked Israel to refrain from treating allegations as fact until a verdict is issued.
“The Israeli authorities must cease all statements that could prejudice the outcome of the trial. Reporting allegations as fact is a violation of the presumption of innocence,” Mughrabi said.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Immanuel Nachshon told The Jerusalem Post that Israel categorically rejects Amnesty International’s report.
The spokesman said that Israel is not carrying out the trial in secrecy. “The trial is not being held in secrecy, but rather is closed to the public because sensitive information will be revealed,” he said. “This is totally standard procedure.”
Nachshon added that there is no basis to allegations that El-Halabi made a confession under duress. “He has been interrogated according to all legal principles,” he said, adding, “Mr. El-Halabi gave a confession of his own free will regarding all aspects of his terrorism-related activities. In addition, his confession is substantiated by seized documents by the Israeli security services.”
The spokesman added that Israel is not treating El-Halabi as a convict. “In the Israeli legal system, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Mr. El-Halabi is being treated as a suspect.”
On August 4, an Israeli court charged El-Halabi with funneling money to the Izzadin Kassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing.
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) said that El-Halabi transferred $7.2 million of humanitarian aid money annually to Hamas’s coffers.
World Vision has said that “it has no reason” to believe the charges against El-Halabi.