Israel pressured to end oppression of Palestinian aid-worker detained since 2016

Israel pressured to end oppression of Palestinian aid-worker detained since 2016
2 min read
01 March, 2022
Mohammed El-Halabi, the former director of World Vision in Gaza, has been detained by Israel's internal security services since 2016.
A 2019 demonstration in support of World Vision staff member Mohammad El Halabi in Gaza, who has been imprisoned in Israel for six years. (Getty Images)

Israel is facing mounting pressure to end its six-year detention of an aid worker, in a case that human rights groups and the UN have deemed "extremely unfair".

Mohammed El-Halabi, the former director of the US-based charity World Vision in Gaza, was arrested by Israel in 2016 on allegations that he helped funnel millions of dollars meant for development to armed groups in Gaza, charges he and his supporters reject as impossible.

He was first held for 50 days without access to a lawyer and has since attended more than 160 court sessions extending his detention.

He remains in administrative detention while the Beersheba court, which heard closing arguments in October, ponders its verdict, according to The Guardian.

The case against the charity worker appears to have been seriously flawed from the start. El-Halabi has been accused of transferring $7.2 million to a Palestinian militant group, an amount that World Vision says is more than the charity's operating budget in Gaza, and so cannot be accurate.

Maher Hanna, his lawyer, claimed he was also never properly able to cross-examine witnesses and was prevented was accessing critical evidence, making it impossible to defend himself fairly. 

"It's completely unprecedented. There was no procedure like that in the history of Israel," he was quoted in The Guardian. "It's extremely unfair, extremely unbalanced, extremely untruthful."

United Nations human rights experts were quoted in a UN press release in 2020 saying: "Mr el-Halabi’s arrest, interrogation and trial is not worthy of a democratic state.

"Israeli authorities must grant him the full rights of a fair trial, or else release him unconditionally. What is happening to Mr. el-Halabi bears no relation to the trial standards we expect from democracies, and is part of a pattern where Israel uses secret evidence to indefinitely detain hundreds of Palestinians."

The case draws further attention to Israel’s belligerent attitude towards NGOs and Palestinians in general, and its unfair judicial system that has often condemned Palestinians to indefinite detention simply for peacefully defending their human rights and homes.