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Israeli court sentences Spanish aid worker to 13 months

Published: Updated:

An Israeli military court on Wednesday sentenced Spanish aid worker Juana Rashmawi to 13 months in prison after convicting her of illegally funding a Palestinian militant organization.

Her lawyer, Avigdor Feldman, told AFP that Israel’s military court had confirmed the sentence requested by prosecutors as part of plea agreement last week and ordered her to pay a 50,000 shekel ($16,000) fine.

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Israel’s military has said Rashmawi confessed to her role as a “fundraiser for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)” a description Feldman rejected.

Rashmawi had been working for the Union of Health Work Committees, which Israel banned from the occupied West Bank in 2020, claiming it was a civilian arm of the PFLP, a Marxist militant group blamed for previous attacks on Israelis.

“The defendant Rashmawi was not involved in passing money to the PFLP. She was working with the health organization, she brought the money to the health organization, she had no idea this money was brought to the PFLP,” Feldman told reporters.

Rashmawi was first detained in April. Her daughter Maria Rashmawi told reporters Wednesday’s sentencing was “important because the uncertainty of the last months led to a lot of anguish and it was very hard to bear.”

Rashmawi’s sentencing comes weeks after Israel outlawed six prominent Palestinian civil society groups, alleging they were also fronts for the PFLP.

The groups – Addameer, Al-Haq, Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC) – deny those allegations.

European donors who support the banned groups and the United Nations have asked to see concrete evidence from Israel supporting the ban.

Israeli officials said Rashmawi’s conviction proved their accusations against the other six NGOs were correct.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has called Rashmawi’s “admission of guilt” proof of Israel’s claims that the groups served as conduits for PFLP funds, calling on the international community to “prevent terrorist organizations from using the veneer of civilian cover.”

On Wednesday, attorney Feldman rejected the description and said he would demand a clarification from Israeli officials.

“She did not collect money for the PFLP. She has no connections with the six organizations that were outlawed... this is a total misuse of her position,” he told reporters.

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