12 years imprisonment in Israel for the former director of "World Vision" organization in Gaza

 12 years imprisonment in Israel for the former director of "World Vision" organization in Gaza

An Israeli court on Tuesday sentenced the former director of the American NGO "World Vision" in the Gaza Strip to 12 years in prison, after convicting him of "embezzling" millions of dollars on behalf of the "Hamas" movement.

The verdict was issued against Muhammad al-Halabi by the Beersheba District Court in southern Israel, with imprisonment for "12 years, taking into account the time he has actually spent" since the beginning of the trial, as he has been detained for six years, according to the verdict.

Al-Halabi was convicted in June of belonging to a "terrorist group" (referring to "Hamas"), "financing terrorist activities", "transferring information to the enemy" and possessing a weapon, according to the list of charges.

Al-Halabi rejected the charges against him and his lawyer denounced what he called a "political trial", especially since the internal audit of the American organization confirmed that he did not transfer any money to "Hamas".

Israel arrested al-Halabi in June 2016 and charged him in August of the same year with embezzling millions of dollars and transferring them to Hamas.

The Australian government, a major donor to World Vision, announced that it has frozen its funding for projects in the Gaza Strip after Halabi's arrest. A subsequent Australian government investigation found no evidence of embezzlement.

Much of the evidence against al-Halabi was kept secret, and the Israeli authorities said "they are classified security files."

Commenting on the ruling, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed its "serious concerns" citing a "lack of evidence" and "failure to comply with international fair trial standards".

The Christian charity World Vision, which works with more than forty thousand people in nearly 100 countries, has announced that its programs are subject to "regular and independent internal audit and independent evaluation" to avoid misuse of its aid.

The American organization works in cooperation with the United Nations, and often implements its projects, and it began its activities in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories in 1975.

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