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Israeli court sentences director of Gaza charity to 12 years in prison

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Israeli court sentences director of Gaza charity to 12 years in prison
World Vision International worker accused of funnelling aid money to Hamas in trial largely held in secret
A picture of Mohammad el Halabi is held at a solidarity gathering in Gaza City on
Ben Lynfield in Jerusalem
Wed 31 Aug 2022 00.59 AEST
An Israeli court has sentenced the Gaza director of an international charity
to 12 years in prison on allegations of funnelling aid money to Hamas, the
end of a high-profile case mired in controversy and largely held in secret.
Disregarding UN concerns over a lack of evidence in the six-year case, the
district court in the southern city of Beersheba said Mohammad el Halabi,
who had been Gaza’s director for World Vision International, would have to
serve six years in prison taking into account the deduction of the amount he
was held during the trial.
Palestinians, rights groups and aid workers allege the lengthy trial, much of
it held behind closed doors, is part of a broad Israeli effort to undermine
vital relief and civil society groups in the occupied West Bank and Gaza
World Vision responded that it would continue to back Halabi through an
appeal to Israel’s supreme court and warned of a “chilling effect” on aid
disbursement due to Israeli actions.
After his arrest in 2016, Israeli authorities alleged Halabi had channelled
tens of millions of dollars to Hamas, the militant group that rules the
impoverished coastal enclave and is considered a terrorist organisation by
Israel and western countries. But investigations by his employer,
independent auditors and the Australian government, a donor, found no
evidence of wrongdoing.
Human Rights Watch condemned the sentencing, saying Halabi had been
held for six years based on “secret evidence which multiple investigations
rejected, making a mockery of due process”.
In June,  Halabi was found guilty of membership to a terrorist organisation ,
financing terrorist activity “transmitting information to the enemy” and
possession of a weapon. He had turned down repeated Israeli offers of a
plea bargain that would have enabled him to walk free based on time

served, including one just two weeks before the verdict, his lawyer, Maher
Hanna said.
Raji Sourani, the director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in
Gaza City, said behind the proceedings and sentencing was a “systematic
Israeli smear campaign against civil society and groups that help the
Palestinian people” in the West Bank and Gaza. This, he alleged, can also be
seen by its outlawing of six Palestinian civil society groups in the West Bank
on the grounds they were fronts for terrorism. EU countries determined
that Israel had failed to prove this claim but Israeli forces, undeterred,
recently raided and shut their offices in Ramallah.
“Israel tries to defame with charges of terrorism and to cause defunding by
donors,” Sourani said.
World Vision, in a statement, said the trial and sentencing would harm
efforts to give humanitarian aid to Palestinians. “The arrest, six-year trial,
unjust verdict and this sentence are emblematic of actions that hinder
humanitarian work in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It adds to the chilling
impact on World Vision and other aid or development groups working to
assist Palestinians.”
The Israeli foreign ministry did not respond directly to the allegations that
the trial had lacked due process. In a statement, it said: “Any diversion of
humanitarian funds for terrorism purposes is a reprehensible act
committed at the expense of the Palestinian residents of Gaza. Israel will
continue to use the tools at its disposal to prevent such crimes and to hold
Hamas and other terrorist groups accountable for perpetrating them.”
The ministry added that Israel recognised the importance of humanitarian
work in Gaza and was committed to working with groups including World
Vision “in a manner consistent with security considerations and
international standards”.

Article link:
Article source: The Guardian, 30/8/2022

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000