A staff member at World Vision who has been accused of diverting aid funding away from the charity to militant group Hamas has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Mohammad El Halabi, who was manager of operations in Gaza, was arrested in June 2016 for his links to the fundamentalist political organisation in Palestine. Reports at the time said he was accused of funnelling approximately £5.3m a year of World Vision funds to Hamas – including some £60,000 worth of British donations.
In a statement World Vision said he had not seen any “credible evidence supporting the charges” and that the charity supports “the ongoing presumption of his innocence”.
It said that none of the allegations against Mohammad El Halabi have been tested in an open court, but that “World Vision condemns any diversion of aid funding and strongly condemns any act of terrorism or support for those activities”.
The statement said: “World Vision has not seen any credible evidence supporting the charges. Access to any such evidence would help us address any potential gaps in our systems. We remain committed to understand the truth behind the allegations made against Mohammad El Halabi and determine what, if any, changes we need to make.
El Halabi appeared in court in Israel where he pleaded not guilty to all charges made against him.
Conducting a review of operations in Gaza
World Vision said that for several months its humanitarian work in Gaza has been suspended as the charity conducts a “throrough and wide-ranging review” of its operations.
The charity said: “This includes a forensic audit currently underway by a leading global accounting firm. This action is part of World Vision’s commitment to act in a fully transparent and open manner. The review to date has not generated any concerns about diversion of World Vision resources.
“We remain deeply concerned with this situation, and are saddened by the impact on Gaza’s children and their families. Aid from the international community remains a lifeline for 1.1 million people in Gaza, and one in four children in Gaza are in need of psychosocial support.