The Gaza head of the global Christian charity World Vision on Thursday pleaded not guilty in an Israeli court to aiding the Hamas terrorist group, his employers said, according to AFP.
Israel accuses Mohammed al-Halabi, head of Gaza operations for World Vision, of siphoning millions of dollars to the terrorist movement which runs Gaza.
At the district court in Be’er Sheva in southern Israel, Halabi pleaded not guilty to all charges against him, World Vision said.
“World Vision has not seen any credible evidence supporting the charges,” the organization said in a statement quoted by AFP.
The global body of World Vision has denied any knowledge of wrongdoing, but former Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold had estimated that Halabi “managed to transfer in the decade of his work at World Vision…tens of millions of dollars.”
Following the disclosure of the Hamas infiltration into World Vision, Australia announced it would cut funding to the group. World Vision itself later cut jobs and halted projects in Gaza following Halabi’s arrest.
In its statement on Thursday, the group said its humanitarian work in Gaza has been suspended “as we conduct a thorough and wide-ranging review of our operations.”
Halabi’s lawyers have complained they have been prevented from seeing much of the evidence against him and objected to two additional charges being tacked on seven months after his initial arrest.
The trial will continue on February 23.
In a separate case, a Palestinian Arab UN worker accused by Israel of aiding Hamas was recently sentenced to seven months in jail as part of a plea bargain.
Waheed Borsh, an employee of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), was suspected of having been instructed by a senior Hamas official to conduct his work in the UNDP in such a way as to enable Hamas to gain the maximum benefit from it.