Amnesty International on Monday called on Israel to give an aid worker charged with aiding the Hamas terrorist group a “fair and open trial,” citing allegations of abuse in custody.
“He was initially denied access to a lawyer and when she was eventually allowed to meet him, he alleged he had been seriously mistreated in custody,” the rights group said in a statement.
“The Israeli authorities must immediately investigate the allegations that Muhammad Halabi was mistreated in custody and may have been forced into ‘confessing’ under duress,” it added.
“Any evidence obtained through torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment must be excluded from proceedings. Without independent and impartial investigations into these allegations the trial risks being fundamentally flawed.”
On August 4 an Israeli court charged Halabi, the Gaza director of the World Vision NGO, with having chanelled millions of dollars in foreign aid to the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and its armed wing.
The Shin Bet security service said $7.2 million (6.5 million euros) given to World Vision had been diverted to Hamas each year, with some of it funding the Gaza Strip rulers’ military campaign against the Jewish state.
World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization, has reacted by saying it had “no reason to believe” the allegations against Halabi were true.
The charge sheet said he was recruited by Hamas to infiltrate the aid organization more than a decade ago, rising to become the head of World Vision’s Gaza operation.
Halabi was arrested in June and later indicted on a number of charges, including funding terror.
“The allegation of stealing money intended to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is extremely serious,” Amnesty added on Monday.
“This makes it all the more pressing to ensure that Muhammad Halabi’s rights are fully respected and that his trial be fair and transparent.”
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