Israeli court sentences former World Vision worker to 12 years in prison for diverting funds to Hamas

An Israeli court has sentenced Mohamed el Halabi, a former Palestinian worker for the NGO World Vision in the Gaza Strip to twelve years in prison for allegedly diverting millions of euros to the Hamas militia-party, which controls the coastal territory and is listed as a terrorist by Israeli authorities.

The district court in the southern city of Beersheba has concluded that the confession he made at the headquarters of the Shin Bet – the Intelligence and General Internal Security services – was “coherent, specific and included details” that he could not have made up, according to the newspaper ‘The Jerusalem Post’.

The Israeli judiciary has determined that additional documentary evidence exists, while arguing that El Halabi was recruited by the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) to infiltrate inside the NGO and be an undercover agent.

Thus, the Israeli court has specified that, throughout his employment with World Vision, he met with Hamas military operatives to keep abreast of their activities. After the verdict was announced, El Halabi’s lawyer, Maher Hana, said that he would appeal the court’s decision to the Supreme Court.

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The defendant was arrested in June 2016 on a battery of charges that also included membership in a terrorist organization or illegal possession of weapons. Until the confirmation of his verdict, his imprisonment had been extended more than 20 times.

World Vision said in a statement Tuesday that the sentence is “deeply disappointing and stands in stark contrast to the evidence and facts of the case.” “World Vision emphatically condemns any and all acts of terrorism or support for such activities,” it added.

As such, they have rejected “any attempt to divert humanitarian resources or exploit the work of aid organizations operating anywhere,” while noting that there is “no evidence of such things in this case.”

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“We support Mohamed’s intention to appeal the verdict and sentence and call for a fair and transparent appeals process based on the facts of the case,” he has said, adding that his arrest, six-year trial, “unfair” verdict and sentence are actions “emblematic” of actions that hinder humanitarian work in Gaza and the West Bank.

“We are saddened that our work to help Gaza’s most vulnerable children has been interrupted for so long and we look forward to returning. We remain committed to improving the lives of vulnerable children in the region and look forward to advancing our work in the context of our long-standing cooperation with the relevant Israeli and Palestinian authorities,” she concluded.

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