Israeli Court Sentences Gaza Aid Worker to 12 Years in Prison

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Key to the case against him was a confession that he made to a fellow detainee acting as an informant. Halabi testified that the confession was coerced under threat of physical violence.

JERUSALEM — An Israeli court has sentenced a Palestinian aid worker, convicted of diverting funds to the militant group Hamas, to 12 years in prison.

Mohammed Halabi, the head of World Vision’s Gaza office, was found guilty in June of 13 charges, including being a member of a terrorist organisation.

He has denied all the allegations since his arrest in 2016 and plans to appeal, reports BBC.

World Vision said the sentence was “deeply disappointing” and “in sharp contrast to the evidence and facts”.

Human Rights Watch condemned what it called a “profound miscarriage of justice” and said detaining Halabi for six more years was “cruel and inhumane”.

The indictment filed by Israeli prosecutors accused the 44-year-old of diverting millions of dollars of aid to Hamas, which Israel and Western powers designate as a terrorist organisation, as well as iron, plastic tubing and digging tools for the group to build cross-border attack tunnels.

Key to the case against him was a confession that he made to a fellow detainee acting as an informant. Halabi testified that the confession was coerced under threat of physical violence. But the judges said they found him unreliable and that the confession was unlikely to have been fabricated.

“He says that he’s innocent, he did nothing and there is no evidence,” Halabi’s lawyer, Maher Hanna, said after Tuesday’s sentencing. “On the contrary, he proved in the court above any reasonable doubt that he made sure that no money will be [given] directly to Hamas.”

Moran Guez of the southern district attorney’s office told reporters that the prosecution believed that the sentence was too light for “very severe deeds” and that an appeal was being considered.

World Vision complained there had been irregularities in the judicial process and a lack of substantive, publicly available evidence. It also noted that an independent audit and investigations by donor governments had found no evidence of missing funds or criminal behaviour.

“The arrest, six-year trial, unjust verdict and this sentence are emblematic of actions that hinder humanitarian work in Gaza and the West Bank,” the Christian charity warned on Tuesday.

“It adds to the chilling impact on World Vision and other aid or development groups working to assist Palestinians.”

Israel’s foreign ministry said it would continue to prevent “any diversion of humanitarian funds for terrorist purposes”, according to the Associated Press. It added that the country was committed to co-operating with and facilitating the work of aid groups in a manner consistent with security considerations.

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