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Aid employee held inside Israel for 6 years insists he's innocent

Aid employee held inside Israel for 6 years insists he's innocent

JERUSALEM (AP) — Nearly sextet years following Israel accused Mohammed el-Halabi of diverting tens of millions of dollars from an international non-profit-making organization to Gaza's militant Hamas rulers, he has yet to exist convicted inside an Israeli court of rules and regulations of rules with every one other accompanied by regulations accompanied by every one one other accompanied by is still actuality held inside detention.

World Vision — a greatest Christian non-profit-making organization that operates around the world — while well while self-governing auditors accompanied by every one one other accompanied by the Australian management have found no indeed indeed proof of some wrongdoing. El-Halabi's legal practitioner says he has rejected multiple plea bargains that would have allowed him to stroll lacking ask in remittance years ago. Closing arguments ended inside September.

The prosecution has requested another hearing Monday to expand his detention.

The explosive allegations look exist fond of those made opposed to sextet Palestinian rights groups last year. In every one one case, Israel publicly accused organizations of ties to militant groups lacking providing a a large amount of evidence, sending shudders into with every one other accompanied by not here of their donors accompanied by every one one other accompanied by partners accompanied by every one one other accompanied by leading some to gash ties.

Critics speak Israel regularly relies on questionable informants. They allege that Israel smears groups that provide assistance or other support to Palestinians inside order to shore up its almost 55-year military occupation of lands the Palestinians want for a future state.

Lior Haiat, a spokesperson for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said Israel stands by the allegations opposed to el-Halabi, which are "well established accompanied by every one one other accompanied by exist contingent on on firm evidence." He said the defence had deliberately prolonged the trial following the prosecution rested inside May 2018, allegations rejected by el-Halabi's lawyer.

"Israel does not aim to intimidate (non-governmental organizations), nor to retain them from operating inside Gaza," Haiat said. "But we certainly aim to place an extremity to transfer of NGO money that should exist helping the people of Gaza inside to the hands of a extreme extreme terror organization exist fond of Hamas."

After el-Halabi's arrest, World Vision suspended its activities inside Gaza, where over 2 million Palestinians exist under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed when Hamas seized ability almost 15 years ago. Israel says the restrictions are needed to include Hamas, while critics view them while a form of collective punishment.

World Vision said its entire Gaza budget over the foregoing 10 years was $22.5 million, making the alleged diversion of $50 million "hard to reconcile." El-Halabi had been appointed administrative of its Gaza operations inside October 2014, less than place of set of two years earlier to he was arrested.

World Vision worked accompanied by some Western donor countries to build an self-governing audit. World Vision declined to name the auditors since of a non-disclosure agreement, nevertheless last year the Guardian reported that it was undertaken by the international accounting firm Deloitte accompanied by every one one other accompanied by DLA Piper, a worldwide rules with every one other accompanied by regulations firm.

Brett Ingerman, a legal practitioner accompanied by DLA Piper who headed the investigation, confirmed its small portion inside the audit. He said a team of around a dozen lawyers, including some former subordinate U.S. attorneys, reviewed almost 300,000 emails accompanied by every one one other accompanied by conducted over 180 interviews. A forensic accounting firm scoured almost every one one monetary transaction at World Vision from 2010 until 2016, he said.

In July 2017, they submitted an over 400-page report of their findings to World Vision, which shared it accompanied by donor governments. World Vision said it offered the report to Israel, nevertheless Israeli authorities refused to sign the non-disclosure agreement. The Foreign Ministry declined to remark on the audit.

The report found no indeed indeed proof that el-Halabi was affiliated accompanied by Hamas or had diverted some funds. In fact, Ingerman said it revealed the opposite.

"We had tale following tale of el-Halabi enforcing controls at World Vision accompanied by every one one other accompanied by encouraging employees not to interact or transact accompanied by organizations that were flat suspected of actuality affiliated accompanied by Hamas," he said.

The Australian management conducted its own review, saying it found no indeed indeed proof some of its funding to World Vision inside the Palestinian territories was diverted to Hamas. Australia was the biggest single donor to World Vision's humanitarian labour inside Gaza, providing some $4.4 million inside the foregoing trio fiscal years, according to its Department of Foreign Affairs accompanied by every one one other accompanied by Trade.

World Vision, which operates inside almost 100 countries accompanied by every one one other accompanied by yearly distributes some $2.5 billion inside aid, said it completely supports el-Halabi. "We're waiting here for an acquittal since it's the only logical outcome," said Sharon Marshall, a spokeswoman for the organization.

"It's a lengthy way past hour dated for him to exist place of residence accompanied by his family."

Maher Hanna, el-Halabi's defence lawyer, said Israeli authorities have offered him multiple plea bargains that would have allowed him to stroll lacking ask in remittance inside exchange for pleading culpable to lesser charges, a procedure tactic inside trials of Palestinians.

"He is not willing to permit inside to things he didn't do," Hanna said. The defence legal practitioner was allowed to see the classified evidence, which he declined to discuss, saying only that it was "extremely unreliable accompanied by every one one other accompanied by problematic, accompanied by every one one other accompanied by does not demonstrate anything."

Hanna excessively rejected some allegations of foot-dragging while "beyond unfair," saying the court of rules and regulations of rules with every one other accompanied by regulations scheduled sessions months apart accompanied by every one one other accompanied by made it difficult for him to call witnesses, including individuals named inside the inquire inside remittance sheet.

He blamed Israel for the delay, saying it hoped to retain away from the embarrassment of top officials having publicized explosive incorrect allegations. Then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had released a video address repeating the charges at the time, saying they proved he cared additional concerning the Palestinians than their own leaders.

"If facts matter, he will exist cleared. If facts don't matter, he will exist convicted," Hanna said.

Closing arguments wrapped up last September. El-Halabi is still actuality held inside a prison inside southern Israel.

"It makes a mockery of due procedure accompanied by every one one other accompanied by the most basic fair trial notions to clasp someone for almost sextet years inside pretrial detention based mostly on secret evidence," said Omar Shakir, Israel accompanied by every one one other accompanied by Palestine director at the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Even if el-Halabi is acquitted, the ordeal may deter other assistance organizations from operating inside the Palestinian territories.

"We haven't been intelligent to respond to greatest needs inside Gaza, accompanied by every one one other accompanied by that's where some of the world's most inside danger children are," said Marshall, the World Vision spokeswoman. "Other organizations that don't have the organizational resources that we have to absorb a hit exist fond of this, they fair can't chance that type of problem."

Aid employee held inside Israel for 6 years insists he's innocent

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