Mohammed El-Halabi

Lapid, please examine my son’s case!

The case of Mohammed El-Halabi

The case of Mohammed El-Halabi has a direct bearing to Australia as the money he’s alleged to have diverted to Hamas came from World Vision Australia. The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs has investigated the matter and found the allegation to be false. The Australian Palestine Advocacy Network has taken up his case as one of its campaigns. I thought it deserves public awareness and translated this Haaretz item. (Sol Salbe)

By Khalil El Halabi

Sir, Minister Yair Lapid.

I decided to write to you after hearing your speech in Abu Dhabi at the opening of the Israeli Embassy in the United Arab Emirates. I have noticed the great change in your tone towards peace. You spoke of the importance of peace between peoples and said that we must all act to put an end to the destructive wars.

The victims of the war and the lack of peace are innocent people. Therefore, I would like to present to you the story of my son, Mohammed al-Halabi, a humanitarian activist and true peace lover, who has been held in a prison in Israel since June 15, 2016.

My son was an employee of the American humanitarian organisation World Vision, and his job was to help poor families in Gaza. He helped anyone who asked, without discrimination and without regard to his political affiliation. Despite his hard work on behalf of the poor he was sentenced to prison after 163 court hearings, without any decisive conclusion or hard evidence against him. On July 14, he participated in the 164th hearing in his case. Israel’s General Security Service claims that my son transferred money from the organisation to Hamas’ military wing, and that in addition the money was used to dig tunnels and purchase weapons.

The United Arab Emirates gave my son its 2012 Excellence Award and in the same year he was recognized by the UN as a “humanitarian hero.” The Australian government which financed the donation carried out a comprehensive investigation but could not find any evidence for the accusations against him. Would it not be fair to say that my son was subjected to tremendous pressure for 52 days, losing 50 per cent of his hearing because of it? Is it conceivable that this would be the fate of someone whom the UAE, the UN and others recognised as a humanitarian?

Since his first year in prison, he has been offered a plea bargain in return for admission of guilt, but he refuses and argues he is not willing to lie just to get free. At the same time, the courts refuse to allow him to be released on bail, even though it has been five years since he was arrested on as yet unproven charges.

My son’s lawyer’s hands are bound, as the judges have asked him to limit his summary to 25 pages. After many complaints he was allowed to write 60 pages on the court computers. The legal proceedings are done out of manipulation, to keep my son in an unjust prison. At the 164th hearing, the judge did not even set a date for another hearing, and meanwhile my innocent son is still languishing in prison.

I know my son is innocent. That is why I wrote to the President of the United States, Joe Biden, to the Pope and to the Secretary — General of the United Nations. The secretary-general replied to me with concern for my son’s fate and promised to continue to continue to follow up his case. We know that the Foreign Ministry is pressuring the prosecution not to put an end to this “show”. There’s a pressure on them to extract a confession from an innocent person in order to justify the false accusation against him. My son is innocent and all we want is for justice to prevail and for him to be released and returned to his family in Gaza. Justice is not a weakness but a strength. Dear minister, you are decent person and I’m convinced that you won’t agree that an innocent person should languish in jail for a crime that he didn’t commit. If you examine my son’s case, you’d concur with all the others that he’s innocent and should not be punished with imprisonment for even one more day.

The writer is a former senior UNRWA official and the father of Mohammad al Halaby who’s been held in an Israeli prison since 2016.

Hebrew original:
Translated by Sol Salbe of the Middle East News Service, Melbourne, Australia

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