Mohammed El-Halabi has still not been convicted in an Israeli court over six years after Israel accused him of diverting tens of millions of dollars from an international charity to Gaza’s terrorist Hamas rulers.

Independent auditors and the Australian government, as well as World Vision, a large Christian charity that operates around the world, have found no evidence of misconduct. El-lawyer Halabi’s claims that he has turned down numerous plea agreements that would have let him go free years ago. In September, the last arguments were held.

The prosecution has sought that his custody be extended at a hearing on Monday.

The explosive claims are similar to those leveled last year against six Palestinian rights organizations. In each case, Israel openly accused organizations of having ties to violent groups without giving any evidence, causing some donors and partners to shiver and break ties.

Israel, according to critics, frequently uses shady sources. They claim that Israel smears organizations that provide aid or other assistance to Palestinians in order to maintain its nearly 55-year military occupation of Palestinian-claimed land.

The claims against El-Halabi are “clearly established and rely on tangible evidence,” according to Lior Haiat, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry. After the prosecution rested in May 2018, he claimed the defense had purposefully delayed the trial, claims denied by El-counsel. Halabi’s

“Israel’s goal is not to scare or prevent (non-governmental organizations) from operating in Gaza,” Haiat added. “However, we are determined to prevent the passage of money from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that should be supporting the people of Gaza into the hands of a terrorist organization like Hamas.”

Following El-arrest, Halabi’s World Vision halted its work in Gaza, where more than 2 million Palestinians live under an Israeli-Egyptian siege imposed when Hamas seized power nearly 15 years ago. The limitations are justified by Israel as a means of containing Hamas, but critics see them as a sort of collective punishment.

World Vision’s Gaza budget for the preceding ten years was $22.5 million, making the estimated $50 million divergence “difficult to reconcile.” El-Halabi was named manager of the organization’s Gaza operations in October 2014, less than two years before his arrest.

World Vision collaborated on an independent audit with several Western donor countries. Due to a non-disclosure agreement, World Vision declined to name the auditors, but the Guardian reported last year that the audit was conducted by Deloitte and DLA Piper, a global law firm.

The investigation’s lead lawyer, Brett Ingerman of DLA Piper, confirmed the firm’s involvement in the audit. He claimed a team of about a dozen lawyers analyzed roughly 300,000 emails and conducted over 180 interviews, including numerous former assistant US attorneys. From 2010 to 2016, a forensic accounting firm examined nearly every financial transaction at World Vision, he added.

They presented a 400-page report outlining their results to World Vision in July 2017, and it was shared with donor governments. The report was provided to Israel by World Vision, but the Israeli government declined to sign the non-disclosure agreement. The Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment on the audit.

El-Halabi was not found to be associated with Hamas or to have diverted cash, according to the study. In reality, according to Ingerman, it revealed the exact reverse.

“We have tale after story of El-Halabi implementing restrictions at World Vision and advising staff not to connect or deal with organizations merely suspected of having ties to Hamas,” he claimed.

The Australian government conducted its own investigation and concluded that no funds allocated to World Vision in the Palestinian territories were diverted to Hamas. According to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia was the largest single donor to World Vision’s humanitarian operations in Gaza, contributing $4.4 million over the preceding three fiscal years.

World Vision, which works in nearly 100 countries and gives $2.5 billion in aid yearly, has expressed its entire support for El-Halabi. “We’re hoping for an acquittal because it’s the only reasonable outcome,” Sharon Marshall, an organization spokesman, said.

“It’s well beyond his time to be with his family.”

El-lawyer, Halabi’s Maher Hanna, said Israeli authorities offered him various plea bargains that would have let him go free in exchange for admitting guilty to lesser charges, which is a common approach in Palestinian prosecutions.

“He won’t acknowledge to stuff he didn’t do,” Hanna explained. The defense attorney was given access to the sensitive evidence, which he refused to divulge, only stating that it was “very unreliable and troublesome, and does not establish anything.”
Any claims of foot-dragging, according to Hanna, are “beyond unfair,” because the court scheduled sessions months apart and made it difficult for him to call witnesses, even those named in the charge sheet.

He blamed Israel for the delay, claiming that the country wanted to prevent the embarrassment of top officials making explosive bogus claims public. The claims were repeated in a video speech by then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said they proved he cared more about Palestinians than their own leaders.

“If facts are important, he will be exonerated.” “If the facts don’t matter, he’ll be found guilty,” Hanna said.

The last arguments were held in September of last year. El-Halabi remains imprisoned in a southern Israeli jail.

“Holding someone in pretrial imprisonment for over six years based mainly on secret evidence is a mockery of due process and the most basic fair trial ideas,” said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch in New York.
Even if El-Halabi is found not guilty, the incident may prevent other humanitarian organizations from functioning in Palestinian territory.

“We haven’t been able to respond to key needs in Gaza, which is home to some of the world’s most vulnerable children,” said Marshall, a spokesman for World Vision. “Other organizations that lack the organizational resources that we do to absorb a hit like this simply cannot risk such a catastrophe.”


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