United Nations award winning Palestinian humanitarian worker Mohammed al-Halabi is still caged by Israel under farcical charges of syphoning money from a humanitarian charity which he never had access to, and which according to the charity itself, and an independent audit by the Australian government, has never gone missing. Despite 57 court hearings over 23 months Israel still doesn't have a shred of evidence against Halabi. On the eve of his 58th hearing Inminds human rights group projected an image of Mohammed al-Halabi on London's iconic Marble Arch demanding his release.
Inminds chair Abbas Ali said "Mohammed al-Halabi is the latest victim in a long line of victims in Israel's war on humanitarian organisations. Its not enough that Israel bombs and starves Gaza, now they want to punish those that are feeding Gaza. This is unacceptable, we demand Mohammed al-Halabi's immediate unconditional release."
Mohammed is a renowned humanitarian aid worker in Gaza, heading the Christian charity World Visionís Gaza operation. UNICEF reports that Israelís attack on Gaza in 2014 left hundreds of thousands of children in trauma. Mohammed works with these traumatised children , creating safe spaces for them to try and rehabilitate them back from trauma. He also helps provide basic humanitarian assistance, under his leadership World Vision provides for 40,000 children in Gaza. In 2014 Mohammed al ĖHalabi was honoured by the United Nations as its ďHumanitarian HeroĒ. In an interview for his award Mohammed was asked what was his most memorable experience during his work.
ďOne of the children in our programs in 2009 had lost two of her young cousins and her hair was burnt after a white phosphorous bomb has fallen on her home. She was severely traumatized, was isolated in her room and was not talking to anyone. A few months after she joined our programs, she became a leader for a group of children and I met her while she was educating them about child rights and singing for peace. I was so touched with the experience and will never forget the happiness I felt at this moment.Ē
Whilst on his way home to Gaza from a World Vision meeting in Jerusalem in July 2016, Mohammed al-Halabi was taken by soldiers at the crossing to Gaza. He disappeared for 21 days, prevented from seeing a lawyer, he was severely tortured. Bound to a small chair, the Israeli interrogators beat him senseless. But he still refused to sign their ludicrous confession of having diverted $50 million from World Visions humanitarian fund to Hamas.
World Vision International CEO Kevin Jenkins pointed to discrepancies in the Shin Bet charges: "World Vision's cumulative operating budget in Gaza for the past 10 years was approximately $22.5m, which makes the alleged amount of up to $50m being diverted hard to reconcile." He also pointed out that Mohammed al-Halabi "was the manager of our Gaza operations only since October 2014. Before that time he managed only portions of the Gaza budget. World Vision's accountability processes cap the amount individuals in management positions at his level to a signing authority of US$15,000,".
An inquiry by the Australian government ó a major donor to World Vision ó cleared the charity after demonstrating that there was no evidence to suggest that its staff misused taxpayersí money in the Gaza Strip.
In response to these facts, the Israel foreign affairs spokesman Emmanual Nachshon simply replied it was irrelevant. The reality is that for Israel the facts donít matter, this is not about Mohammed al-Halabi, itís part of a carefully planned attack on humanitarian providers in Gaza. A Save the Children staff worker, and also a United Nations Development Programme worker have also been similarly accused of similar baseless charges. With Mohammed al-Halabiís arrest, Israel has frozen World Visions bank accounts in Jerusalem. This has forced World Vision to closed down operations in Gaza, immediately putting at risk the the lives of the 40,000 children that it provides for in Gaza. Israel is not content with bombing children in Gaza, it is now after those children that survived the slaughter and those humanitarians who care for them.
Message from the sons of Mohammed al-Halabi
We are the sons of Engineer Mohamed Halabi. We send greetings and thanks to those who stood with us in the absence of our father who was unjustly imprisoned.
Our special thanks to Inminds in London for standing with us in the most difficult circumstances as well as their prayers in order to release our father.
My little brother Fares sees the photo of our father and says this is my uncle this make us every day crying.
We send you our message from our dark home because we have been deprived of seeing our father for 23 months your standing with us make life return to us.
We want your prayers to our father .