RAMALLAH, Chairman of the Palestinian Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs Commission, Qadri Abu Baker, called today on the international human rights, legal, and humanitarian organizations to pressure the Israeli occupation government to release Gaza former aid worker, Mohammed al-Halabi, who has been detained for more than four years without a verdict or a fair trial.
Al-Halabi has attended more than 140 court hearings, all behind closed doors. His lawyer has been prevented from reviewing Israeli prosecution evidence or was given only limited access with secrecy restrictions.
On November 12th, UN human rights experts called on Israel to release al-Halabi who has been in prison for more than four years without a verdict or to immediately grant him a fair trial.
Mohammed el-Halabi, the former Gaza director of the World Vision charity, was arrested by Israeli security forces in June 2016 on allegations that he diverted millions of dollars in development funds to armed groups in Gaza, charges he denies, and which audits have not substantiated.
“Mr el-Halabi’s arrest, interrogation and trial are not worthy of a democratic state,” the experts said.
“Israeli authorities must grant him the full rights of a fair trial, or else release him unconditionally,” stressed the UN experts.
“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,” they said.
“It’s particularly disturbing that the prosecution is relying upon confessions allegedly obtained by force while he was denied access to a lawyer, and on testimony from undercover informers,” the experts said.
“These fundamentally unfair practices stain the justice system of any state,” the experts said. “We demand that Israel adhere to the requirements of the international rule of law,” they added.
A statement issued by the UN experts said: “The international rule of law requires that an individual who is arrested must only be detained if there are reasonable suspicions that she or he has committed a recognised crime, and the charges and the evidence must be clearly laid out so defendants know what they have to answer. Comprehensive audits of the financial records by World Vision and by the Australian government, which donated the money, failed to turn up any misappropriation of funds or other wrongdoing.”
“Under the international rule of law, a defendant is entitled to swift access to a lawyer and to timely criminal proceedings that are fair and impartial. Any defendant must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty, and is entitled to cross-examine witnesses and to present her or his own witnesses.”
“Even in security trials, these fundamental rights must be respected,” the experts said. “Unfortunately, Mr el-Halabi has been put in the position where he is required to refute allegations against him without knowing the details or who the accusers are. Keeping him in the dark like this shifts the burden of proof to the defendant, and is a fundamental violation of the right to a fair trial,” said the experts.
The experts were: Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; Agnès Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Diego García-Sayán, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.
Source: Palestinian News & Info Agency (WAFA)