World Vision's Gaza branch manager Mohammed el-Halabi was accused by Israeli officials on Thursday of giving millions of dollars from World Vision's funds to the extremist group Hamas.
According to Israeli officials, Halabi admitted during interrogations that he had been a member of Hamas since his youth, and that he had joined World Vision staff on assignment from Hamas.
Shin Bet, the internal security service of Israel, said that Halabi had channeled over $7 million from World Vision's funds to Hamas each year, which makes up some 60 percent of the annual budget World Vision had set aside for the Gaza branch, and that Halabi additionally gave the extremist group $1.5 million each year in cash.
Halabi denied the charges, according to his lawyer, Muhamad Mahmud.
"He told me he never, ever transferred any money to Hamas and he has never been a Hamas member," Mahmud told NBC News. Halabi had also been denied a lawyer for over 20 days since his detention, Mahmud added.
"We just really want a fair process, where Mohammad, once charged, gets to present his side, because we want to know the truth about this," Tim Costello, the chief executive of World Vision Australia, told the New York Times. "The truth comes out when you hear both sides."
World Vision said in a statement that it was "shocked" about the charges, and emphasized that it "subscribes to the humanitarian principles of impartiality and neutrality and therefore rejects any involvement in any political, military, or terrorist activities."
"World Vision programmes in Gaza have been subject to regular internal and independent audits, independent evaluations, and a broad range of internal controls aimed at ensuring that assets reach their intended beneficiaries and are used in compliance with applicable laws and donor requirements," the statement continues. "We will carefully review any evidence presented to us and will take appropriate actions based on that evidence. We continue to call for a fair, legal process."
The terrorist group Hamas has also dismissed the accusations.
“Israeli security services are using this issue to calm the Israeli society, while it is not true at all. Israel can arrest anybody at the Erez Crossing and claim he is a Hamas activist, but that doesn’t mean it is true," Hazem Qasem, a spokesman of the Hamas group, told the Washington Post.
Halabi was arrested on June 15 on his way way home in the Erez Crossing, located between Israel and the Gaza Strip.