World Vision: Open trial of aid worker to the public
World Vision's questions Israeli accusations that the NGO's Gaza head diverted millions of dollars in aid to Hamas.
World Vision's global president on Tuesday questioned Israeli accusations that the NGO's Gaza head diverted millions of dollars in aid to Hamas and said his trial should be open to the public, AFP reported.
A closed pre-trial hearing for World Vision's Mohammed al-Halabi was held Tuesday morning in the southern Israeli city of Be'er Sheva.
"A trial is legitimate if it is transparent," World Vision International's president Kevin Jenkins told AFP in one of his first interviews since Halabi was charged on August 4.
"Obviously with such serious allegations against a staff member, we are calling for him to have a fair hearing," added Jenkins.
He said the allegations against Halabi were so serious that the NGO was hoping for an open trial to learn as many lessons as possible if they were proved correct.
"As much as our donors want the truth to come out, we want the truth to come out," Jenkins told AFP. "Our whole reputation is based on integrity."
Halabi's lawyer, according to AFP, said all media and even World Vision staff were prevented from attending Tuesday's hearing.
Israel foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said such closed doors trials were "standard practice" due to the sensitive nature of the information presented.
It is "standard practice in terrorism cases all over the Western world," he told AFP.
The global body of World Vision has denied any knowldge of wrongdoing, but Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold estimated recently 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 countries recently criticized Israel over what they claimed was its failure to respond to their request for information regarding the alleged transfer of international aid funds to Hamas in Gaza. The criticism was both over the World Vision case as well as the case of Waheed Al-Borsh, an employee of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) who is charged with assisting Hamas.
The Foreign Ministry rejected the claims, saying, “Since the indictments against UNDP and World vision personnel on their involvement in Hamas terror activities, relevant information has been conveyed, through various channels, to the countries involved in the humanitarian activity.”
Jenkins called the scale of the allegations against Halabi "very difficult to reconcile" with reality.
World Vision has said its Gaza budget for the past 10 years was only $22.5 million, making the numbers alleged all but impossible.
"We are not a naive organization. We have world-class systems to prevent the sort of things that are being alleged here," Jenkins told AFP.
"They are not foolproof, (but) they would generally have all sorts of red lights going off if anything close to what is being alleged should happen. It is very difficult to reconcile those numbers against the controls we have in place," he added.
Jenkins defended World Vision's work in Gaza over the years, saying it had performed "with integrity" and last year provided support for more than 40,000 children.
The NGO has currently suspended its projects in the Palestinian Authority-assigned territories pending an internal review, but Jenkins said there was a "strong desire to return to Gaza".
"We can only work in places where we can perform our work with integrity. We feel like we have done that in the past. I feel like we will be able to do it going forward."