World Vision Gaza director gets 12 years in prison in notorious terrorism case

On Tuesday, the work director of the World Vision Christian ministry in Gaza was sentenced to 12 years in prison for allegedly transferring funds from the ministry to the terrorist organization Hamas. Mohammad el-Halabi, who has already spent six years in prison as part of his trial, plans to appeal the decision.

In June, a court in Beersheba found him guilty of terrorism charges, citing classified information that has been withheld from the public. The guilty verdict and a confession that el-Halabi gave to investigators under duress also remain confidential.

In a statementWorld Vision called the sentence “deeply disappointing and in stark contrast to the evidence and facts of the case”, adding, “World Vision categorically condemns all acts of terrorism or support for such activities. We reject any attempted misappropriation of humanitarian resources or exploitation of the work of humanitarian organizations operating anywhere, and we see no evidence of these things in this case.

The Israeli prosecutor said el-Halabi “funded terrorism with millions of shekels” and “helped reinforce the Hamas tunnel network” that is used in attacks against Israel. But World Vision and independent auditors from the United States, Australia and Germany say the shekels cited by Israel do not come from the ministry’s budget.

The long and opaque trial attracted conviction of some Israeli media: “Either El Halabi is one of Israel’s greatest and most dangerous enemies, as the indictment against him indicates, or he is the victim of a cynical propaganda system cruelty that exploits it to stop the influx of international humanitarian refugees. aid in the Gaza Strip.

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Some believe the trial would never have turned out this way had it not been politicized by then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who criticized el-Halabi in a high-profile fashion. video.

World Vision said the trial, verdict and sentencing “are emblematic of actions that hamper humanitarian work in Gaza and the West Bank”, an area where Israeli occupation, sanctions and war have deepened poverty, hunger and unemployment for 2 million Palestinians living under blockades enforced by Egypt and Israel since Hamas took power in 2007.

World Vision is a $2.5 billion ministry and member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability that follows financial policies that prevent anyone from misappropriating the $50 million as Israel claims. As MinistryWatch reported in June, World Vision’s budget for Gaza for the previous 10 years totaled just $22.5 million, and its policies capped what any employee could spend at $15,000.

World Vision says it worked with donor countries to conduct an independent audit led by a team of lawyers and auditors that reviewed nearly 300,000 emails, conducted more than 180 interviews and reviewed financial transactions from 2010 to 2016 The audit found no evidence of misconduct but found el-Halabi to be a strict enforcer of financial rules.

World Vision has worked in the Holy Land since 1975, serving children, families and communities in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, benefiting approximately 560,000 people. Work in Gaza was halted shortly after el-Halabi’s arrest, but World Vision hopes to return one day.

“We are saddened that our work helping Gaza’s most vulnerable children has been interrupted for so long, and we hope to return to Gaza…as part of our longstanding cooperation with the relevant Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

This article originally appeared on MinistryWatch.

Steve Rabey is a seasoned author and journalist who has published over 50 books and 2,000 articles on religion, spirituality and culture. He was an instructor at Fuller and Denver seminaries and at the US Air Force Academy.

Barry F. Howard