UN Human Rights Office: Grave fair trial concerns in the el-Halabi case

The UN Human Rights Office in Palestine holds grave concerns in the case of Mohammad el-Halabi, who tomorrow faces a verdict in his trial in the Israeli District Court on allegations of diverting World Vision funds in Gaza.

“This decision comes exactly six years after his arrest on allegations of diverting millions of dollars of development aid to armed groups in Gaza” said James Heenan, head of the UN Human Rights Office in a statement.

“Mr el-Halabi has consistently denied all the charges and resisted enormous pressure from the prosecution and even the Court itself to take a plea bargain, while independent audits have not shown any such diversion of funds.,” he said.

A key concern is the lack of evidence against el-Halabi. No evidence against him has been made public except for reports of a statement by el-Halabi to a fellow detainee, which el-Halabi has consistently said was coerced under threat of physical violence, said the statement.

“This, together with the pressure to strike a plea deal, the widespread use of secret evidence, credible allegations of ill-treatment in detention, the refusal to release Mr el-Halabi on bail despite solid guarantees, restricted access to his lawyer, unprecedented constraints on the lawyer himself and the extensive use of closed-door hearings, paint a picture of enormous pressure on Mr el-Halabi to confess in the absence of evidence,” said Heenan.

Regardless of the verdict delivered tomorrow, the UN Human Rights Office reiterates its concerns that international fair trial standards in this case have not been met, which together with the extremely prolonged period in custody, may have already rendered el-Halabi’s detention arbitrary, the statement concluded.

Source: Palestinian News & Info Agency (WAFA)