BEERSHEBA: An Zionist court on Tuesday sentenced the former Gaza head of a major US-based aid agency to 12 years in prison for funnelling millions of dollars to Islamist group Hamas. The Beersheba district court in southern Jewish state issued a sentence of “12 years’ prison time, less the detention” already served for World Vision’s Mohammed al-Halabi.
The court had ruled in June that Halabi was guilty of siphoning off millions of dollars and tonnes of steel to Hamas, which controls the Palestinian enclave. Halabi, who was arrested in June 2016 and indicted in August that year, has denied any irregularities throughout his past six years in detention.
His lawyer reiterated his claim to innocence following Tuesday’s sentencing. “He says that he’s innocent, he did nothing and there is no evidence,” Maher Hanna said. “On the contrary, he proved in the court above any reasonable doubt that he made sure that no money will be (given) directly to Hamas.”
According to Hanna, if Halabi had admitted to wrongdoings, he would have been released. “But he insisted that truth also has value. And for his personal values and for the international humanitarian work values, he insisted on the truth, and he cannot admit a thing that he did not do,” the lawyer said.
Hanna said they would appeal the verdict to the supreme court. The Zionist prosecution said it was also considering an appeal. “These are very severe deeds, the defendant funded terror with millions of shekels, helped strengthen the Hamas tunnel network,” Moran Guez of the southern district attorney’s office.
“We asked for 16-21 years prison. We’ll read the sentencing and consider our actions,” she told reporters. Halabi had been convicted of membership in a terrorist group-Hamas-and of financing terrorist activities, of having “transmitted information to the enemy” as well as the possession of a weapon.
Much of the evidence against him was kept secret, with Zionist entity citing “security concerns”, prompting his legal team to question the verdict’s legitimacy. In its sentencing, the court said Halabi had joined the military wing of Hamas in 2004, and was “planted in World Vision” the following year.
Meanwhile, outgoing UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet blasted Zionist entity on Tuesday for failing to issue or renew visas for her staff to monitor the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories. The United Nations high commissioner for human rights said it raised questions as to what Zionist entity was “trying to hide” and vowed that her office would continue to report on the situation in the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank.
“In 2020, the 15 international staff of my office in Palestine-which has been operating in the country for 26 years-had no choice but to leave,” Bachelet said in a statement. “Subsequent requests for visas and visa renewals have gone unanswered for two years. During this time, I have tried to find a solution to this situation, but Zionist entity continues to refuse to engage.”
She said that as a member state, Zionist entity had to cooperate with the UN in good faith and allow its officials to carry out their duties. “Zionist entity’s failure to process visa applications that are necessary for my staff’s access is inconsistent with these standards,” Bachelet said. – AFP