Friday, September 22

Israel sentences the Gaza director of the NGO Word Vision to 12 years in prison

An Israeli court has sentenced Palestinian humanitarian worker Mohamed al Halabi, director of the Christian NGO, to 12 years in prison. World Vision in Gaza, after being found guilty in June of various terrorism charges for his alleged collaboration with the Islamist movement Hamas.

Halabi was arrested in 2016 for collaborating and diverting funds to Hamas and has been imprisoned in a prison in the Israeli city of Beersheva ever since for this case that achieved international relevance, and on which neither World Vision’s internal audits nor independent investigations found evidence. of irregularities.

After a long legal process, Halabi was found guilty on June 15 on multiple charges, including belonging to a terrorist organization, providing information to a terrorist organization, diverting funds from his organization to a terrorist group, and participation in prohibited military activities.

Halabi was initially arrested based on an accusation of diverting tens of millions of dollars to Hamas -which governs Gaza and is considered a terrorist by Israel-, something that led to the temporary interruption of World Vision’s activities in the strip, the withdrawal of the financing of several donors and the fear among other NGOs that the arrival of aid to the enclave will be hindered.

The NGO World Vision -based in New York, specializing in assistance to children and present in a hundred countries- carried out an internal audit in 2017 of the accounts of its office in Gaza, without detecting lack of funds or embezzlement in the $22.5 million items handled by Halabi; as well as research carried out by the government of Australia, the main donor.

“The arrest, the six-year trial, the unfair verdict and this sentence are emblematic of the actions that hinder humanitarian work in Gaza and the West Bank,” World Vision said in a statement after learning of Halabi’s 12-year prison sentence. .

Halabi’s lawyer, Maher Hanna, has also highlighted the “inconceivable” length of the sentence as another example of the “list of injustices throughout the process” and has announced the intention to appeal the verdict to the Israeli Supreme Court. , quoted by local media.

The Israeli authorities claim to have clear evidence that Hamas had infiltrated that NGO and was diverting funds earmarked for humanitarian aid to Gaza. In fact, it was then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who announced the charges against Halabi in a video shortly after his arrest.

Halabi’s case has generated much controversy and international attention in recent years as it is considered an example of Israeli persecution against humanitarian workers and organizations -both local and international- operating in the occupied Palestinian territories.

This accusation was also pronounced on multiple occasions during the recent trial against the Spanish humanitarian worker Juana Ruiz, sentenced by Israel to 13 months in prison in November 2021, for her work for a Palestinian NGO classified as illegal.

“An unfair decision”

The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) condemned “in the strongest terms” the “unjust” sentence against the Palestinian humanitarian worker Mohamed al Halabi, former director of the NGO World Vision in Gaza and sentenced today by an Israeli court to 12 years in prison. after being convicted of several terrorism charges in June.

“It is an unjust and retaliatory decision by an occupation court (Israel) against this Palestinian prisoner, an extension of the injustice that befell him from the moment of his arrest without any evidence and without any confession, other than the charges. fabricated against them as part of a comprehensive war of occupation,” the ANP Foreign Ministry said in a statement.