Mohamed al Halabi sentenced to 12 years in prison
a court Israeli on Tuesday sentenced the Palestinian humanitarian worker Mohamed al Halabi, director of the Christian NGO World Vision in Gaza, to 12 years in jail after being declared in June guilty of multiple counts of terrorism for his supposed 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 since then, for this case that achieved international relevance, and on which neither World Vision’s internal audits nor independent investigations found evidence of wrongdoing.
After a long legal process, the past June, 15 Halabi was pleaded guilty on multiple charges, including membership in a terrorist organization, providing information to a terrorist organization, diverting funds from his organization to a terrorist group, and participation in prohibited military activities.
Accused of collaborating with Hamas
Halabi was initially detained on a charge of diverting tens of millions of dollars to Hamas, which rules in Gaza and is considered a terrorist by Israel. That accusation led to the temporary interruption of World Vision’s activities in the strip, the withdrawal of funding from various donors and fears among other NGOs that the arrival of aid to the enclave would be hindered.
The NGO World Vision -based in New York, specializing in assistance to children and present in a hundred countries- carried out a internal audit in 2017 from the accounts of his office in Gaza, without detecting lack of funds or embezzlement in the $22.5 million games Halabi handled. Nor did the Australian government find irregularitiesthe NGO’s main donor, in the research it carried out.
Israeli persecution against humanitarian workers
“The arrest, the six-year trial, the wrongful verdict and this sentence are emblematic of actions that hinder humanitarian work in Gaza and the West Bank”, World Vision said in a statement on Tuesday shortly after the 12-year prison sentence for Halabi was known.
Halabi’s lawyer, Maher Hanna, also highlighted the “inconceivable” length of the sentence as another example of the “list of injustices throughout the process” and announced the intend to appeal the verdict to the Israeli Supreme Court.
The Israeli authorities claim to have evidence clear that Hamas had infiltrated that NGO and was diverting humanitarian aid funds 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 to be considered as a example of Israeli persecution against humanitarian workers and organizations – both local and international – operating in the occupied Palestinian territories.