The Gaza head of a major US-based NGO pleaded not guilty in an Israeli court Thursday to aiding Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, his employers said.
Israel accuses Mohammed al-Halabi, head of Gaza operations for the global Christian charity World Vision, of siphoning millions of dollars to the Islamist movement which runs the territory.
At the district court in Beersheba in southern Israel, Halabi pleaded not guilty to all charges against him, World Vision said.
The group said its humanitarian work in Gaza has been suspended following Halabi’s arrest “as we conduct a thorough and wide-ranging review of our operations.”
“World Vision has not seen any credible evidence supporting the charges,” it said in a statement.
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.
Israel has fought three wars with Hamas in Gaza since 2008.
Israel has long alleged Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks Israel’s destruction, has sought to infiltrate humanitarian organizations and divert aid, accusations the Islamists deny.
Aid workers privately admit to pressure from Hamas but say the restrictions by Israel on goods taken into Gaza are already some of the strictest in the world.
In a similar case, on January 4 a United Nations worker from Gaza was sentenced in an Israeli court to seven months in jail for aiding Hamas “without intention.”