After 3 years, accusations against Gaza World Vision head remain unproven


Mohammed Halabi, arrested in 2016 by Israel on accusations of diverting charity funds to Hamas, is still behind bars. Dozens of court hearings later, the state has yet to present evidence against him. By Antony Loewenstein

Mohammed Halabi, former director of World Vision in Gaza 

Anthony Lowenstein writes in +972, ““I’ve never heard of any case like this in Israel before,” says Maher Hanna. “Even in the [nuclear whistle-blower] Mordechai Vanunu case, his lawyer had more access to their client than I do.” Hanna is the attorney representing Palestinian prisoner Mohammed Halabi, a World Vision manager born in a Gaza refugee camp who three years ago was accused by Israel of funneling around $43 million from the Christian charity to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.”

“Since 2016, Israel has not provided any evidence to Halabi or World Vision to prove its case, and yet Halabi’s trial continues in an Israeli court, unresolved and with no end in sight. His lawyer tells me that he has no idea if Halabi will remain in a remote prison near Be’er Sheva without being convicted for many more years. “This case is unprecedented in the Israeli legal system,” Hanna says. “Israel knows that Halabi is innocent. Some Israeli officials told me that.” Nonetheless, Hanna acknowledges that the panel of three judges could find his client guilty.”

Palestinians receive aid packs from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNWRA)

“+972 Magazine has spent months investigating the Halabi case, examining the origins of the allegations, the reasons behind them, and speaking to key players in the story. The picture that emerges from many pages of internal World Vision documents, rarely heard details of the court case, and a correspondence with Halabi himself, is more than just that of an innocent Palestinian being tortured, mistreated and pressured to capitulate to Israeli demands; it also raises uncomfortable questions for many in the global and Israeli media who willingly accept Israeli government claims about Palestinians — even when there is no supporting evidence.”

“When the allegations against Halabi first surfaced in 2016, a senior official with the Shin Bet toldjournalists that Halabi had been recruited by Hamas in 2005 and instructed to join World Vision. After Halabi became head of World Vision in Gaza in 2010, the Israeli official claimed that he had eventually transferred around 60 percent of the organization’s annual budget in Gaza to Hamas. The allegedly stolen money had been spent on digging cross-border tunnels for Hamas militants to enter Israel, building a Hamas military base, and stealing humanitarian aid destined for hungry families in Gaza, according to the Israeli narrative.”

Interior Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Likud 

“It’s a common complaint by Israeli officials, rarely backed up with hard evidence, that Palestinian employees of international aid groups in Gaza exploit their positions to help Hamas. A number of Palestinians working in Gaza have been arrested and confessed to helping Hamas over the years, but lawyers for the accused men have always alleged that these confessions were elicited through torture at the hands of the Shin Bet. Israel still routinely tortures Palestinians, including children. Hanna says that prosecution witnesses in Halabi’s trial have acknowledged during cross examination being tortured by the Shin Bet and admitting falsehoods.” (more…)

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