The international Christian aid organization World Vision is defending one of its employees who has been accused by the Israeli government of fraudulently diverting millions of dollars to the terrorist organization Hamas.
For six years, aid worker Mohammed el-Halabi has sat in an Israeli prison. Even though closing arguments in his case ended last September, el-Halabi is still awaiting his verdict.
El-Halabi is accused of diverting $50 million in aid dollars to Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist organization.
Loir Haiat, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said that the allegations against el-Halabi are “well established and rely on concrete evidence.”
“Israel does not aim to intimidate [non-governmental organizations], nor to keep them from operating in Gaza. But we definitely aim to prevent transfer of NGO money that should be helping the people of Gaza into the hands of a terror organization like Hamas,” Haiat added.
World Vision, for its part, continues to support el-Halabi. “We’re waiting here for an acquittal because it’s the only logical outcome,” said Sharon Marshall, a spokeswoman for the aid organization.
“It’s far past time for him to be home with his family,” she added.
World Vision also noted that its entire aid budget for Gaza over the previous 10 years was $22.5 million – meaning the accusation of el-Halabi’s $50 million diversion “hard to reconcile.”
Additionally, el-Halabi continues to maintain that he is innocent of the charges against him.
His defense lawyer, Maher Hanna, said that he has continued to reject plea bargains that would allow him to go free in exchange for pleading guilty to lesser charges.
“He is not willing to admit to things he didn’t do,” Hanna said. “If facts matter, he will be cleared. If facts don’t matter, he will be convicted.”
No matter what the truth is in the el-Halabi case, it’s clear that one of the primary victims of the ongoing legal conflict is those in need in Gaza.
Marshall told The Times Of Israel, “We haven’t been able to respond to major needs in Gaza, and that’s where some of the world’s most vulnerable children are. Other organizations that don’t have the organizational resources that we have to absorb a hit like this, they just can’t risk that kind of problem.”
Additionally, The Times reports, “Even if el-Halabi is acquitted, the ordeal may deter other aid organizations from operating in the West Bank and Gaza.”
Photo from ABC News.