Judge to Gaza World Vision worker: Take plea deal, conviction likely
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Judge to Gaza World Vision worker: Take plea deal, conviction likely

Israel has accused Mohammed el-Halabi, head of Gaza operations for the global Christian charity, of siphoning millions to the Hamas terror group

Palestinian children hold posters of Mohammed el-Halabi, left, the Gaza director of World Vision, a major US-based Christian NGO, during a protest to support him at Rafah town in the southern Gaza Strip August 29, 2016. (AFP/SAID KHATIB)
Palestinian children hold posters of Mohammed el-Halabi, left, the Gaza director of World Vision, a major US-based Christian NGO, during a protest to support him at Rafah town in the southern Gaza Strip August 29, 2016. (AFP/SAID KHATIB)

An Israeli judge set to rule in the case of a Gaza manager of the Christian World Vision charity organization, who has been charged with diverting millions of dollars to the Hamas terror group, told the suspect this week that there was “little chance” he would not be convicted.

According to a report by ABC Australia on Wednesday, Judge Nasser Abu Taha of the Beersheba District Court urged Mohammed el-Halabi to accept a plea deal to receive a reduced sentence. There is “little chance” a conviction would not be handed down, said Abu Taha, adding that conviction rates were high in similar security cases in recent years.

“You’ve read the numbers and the statistics,” the judge told el-Halabi, according to ABC. “You know how these issues are handled.”

Israel’s internal security service Shin Bet has alleged that the global aid agency’s Gaza manager el-Halabi created fictitious humanitarian projects to get the funds to the Gaza-based terror group.

The Shin Bet further accused el-Halabi of undergoing Hamas training in the early 2000s, saying he was “planted” by the group at World Vision in 2005, where he climbed the ranks to become director of the Gaza branch.

El-Halabi has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Muhammad el-Halabi, a manager of the World Vision charity's operations in the Gaza Strip, was indicted on August 4, 2016, for diverting the charity's funds to the terrorist organization. (Screen capture: World Vision)
Muhammad el-Halabi, a manager of the World Vision charity’s operations in the Gaza Strip, was indicted on August 4, 2016, for diverting the charity’s funds to the terrorist organization. (Screen capture: World Vision)

Israel’s Justice Ministry declined to comment on el-Halabi’s case because his trial was ongoing.

Also this week, the Australian government said it found no evidence that any of its donations to World Vision had been siphoned to Hamas.

But Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Thursday that its World Vision funding in Gaza would remain suspended while Israeli charges against el-Halabi remain unresolved.

“DFAT has reviewed the management of its funding to World Vision in the Palestinian Territories. The review uncovered nothing to suggest any diversion of government funds.” the department said in a statement.

“Australia’s funding to World Vision in the Palestinian Territories remains suspended until we have considered the outcomes of the court case against Mr. el-Halabi and reviews being undertaken by World Vision Australia and World Vision International into this issue,” it added.

Australian is the biggest single donor to World Vision’s humanitarian work in Gaza, providing 5.8 million Australian dollars ($4.4 million) in the last three fiscal years, the department said.

World Vision welcomed Australia’s findings, adding that its own ongoing audit had not yet raised concerns about how money was spent.

World Vision’s work in Gaza has been suspended pending the outcome of that audit.

“We remain deeply concerned with this situation, and are saddened by the impact on Gaza’s children and their families,” a World Vision statement said.

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