Spanish Woman Sentenced for Aiding Palestinian Terrorist Group

YERUSHALAYIM (AP) -

An IDF court on Wednesday handed down a reduced sentence to a Spanish woman who admitted in a plea bargain to raising funds for a charity that were diverted to a banned group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Juana Ruiz Sánchez was sentenced to 13 months in prison and ordered to pay a fine of 50,000 shekels, or roughly $16,000. With credit for time already served, she could be released in the coming weeks.

Israel has tried to seize on the conviction as proof that it was justified in branding six Palestinian civil society organizations as terrorist groups last month — all due to alleged connections to the PFLP.

But Ruiz’s employer, the Health Work Committees, was not among those six groups. And in the plea bargain, she said she was unaware of the alleged fund-raising scheme and she was not implicated in any activities by the PFLP.

Her lawyer, Avigdor Feldman said the plea bargain “clarified very clearly” that Ruiz was not involved in passing money to the PFLP and had no idea that the alleged transfers had taken place. He also accused Israeli officials of slandering his client and said he would demand that they take back statements implying she was a PFLP agent.

“The whole case is a political case. They tried to use it to justify the outlawing of the human rights organizations,” her lawyer told The Associated Press after the hearing at the Ofer military court.

The PFLP is a secular, leftist political movement with an armed wing that has carried out deadly attacks against Israelis. Israel, the U.S. and European Union consider it to be a terrorist group.

Prosecutors say she raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the group from foreign donors, an unspecified amount of which was then diverted to the PFLP. One accusation was that she raised $4,000 for what she thought was medical equipment that was then steered to the PFLP. Few details on any other alleged misuse of funds were available.

Ruiz was quoted in the documents as saying she was unaware of any wrongdoing and “simply erred.”

But prosecutors noted she continued her work for the Health Work Committees even after learning a co-worker had helped finance an attack and after Israel declared the organization illegal in early 2020. In the end, she was convicted of “performing a service for an outlawed organization” and illegal money transfers.