Court Convicts Palestinian Aid Worker for Funneling Millions to Hamas

(Reuters/Hamodia) — An Israeli court on Wednesday convicted a Palestinian aid worker on charges he funneled tens of millions of dollars in relief funds to the Hamas terror group.

The Beersheva District Court found El Halabi guilty of supporting a terror organization but acquitted him of treason, judges reading out the verdict said. They set a sentencing hearing for July.

The 274-page ruling remains classified. But in a condensed version released to the press, the court leaned heavily on Halabi’s confession to Shin Bet security agents, which he has since attempted to withdraw, according to The Times of Israel.

“The defendant’s confession, given in various ways, is detailed, coherent, with signs of truthfulness,” the three judges wrote in their decision, adding that it was corroborated by additional confidential evidence.

“The defendant relentlessly sought to retract his confession and gave a host of contradictory and unlikely explanations for how he confessed to the charges against him to two different parties,” the judges said.

Halabi, head of Gaza operations for World Vision, an international Christian non-governmental organization, was arrested in June 2016. Israel accused him of siphoning off up to $50 million to pay Hamas fighters, buy arms and fund the group’s activities.

El Halabi has consistently denied the charges against him and has refused several plea-deal offers.

The extended detention, combined with little publicly released evidence of his guilt, drew international condemnations of Israel.

World Vision, which focuses on helping children, claimed an independent audit found no evidence of wrongdoing or of funds missing. It said that in the 10-year period El Halabi was employed, it budgeted around $22.5 million for operations in Gaza, making the amount El Halabi allegedly diverted “hard to reconcile.”

Sharon Marshall, senior director of public engagement for the organization, told Reuters: “We’re going to support Mohammad through whatever appeal process he has left in front of him because we believe, based on what we’ve seen in the court and in investigations, that he is innocent of the charges.”

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