Israeli court jails Spanish aid worker for funding activist group
JERUSALEM: An Israeli military court on Wednesday sentenced Spanish aid worker Juana Rashmawi to 13 months in prison after finding her guilty of illegally funding a Palestinian militant group.
The military said Rashmawi, 63, had confessed to his role as “fundraiser for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,” a group accused of previous attacks on Israelis, a claim it dismissed via his lawyer.
The court upheld the sentence requested by prosecutors in a plea deal last week that also required Rashmawi to pay a fine of 50,000 shekels ($ 16,000).
His lawyer, Avigdor Feldman, told AFP that Rashmawi could be released within two weeks depending on his sentence.
“She has been under arrest since April and there is a chance that she will be released within two weeks if the parole board reduces her sentence by a third,” Feldman said.
Born in Madrid and married to a Palestinian, Rashmawi worked for a Palestinian group, the Union of Health Work Committees.
Israel said the group channeled European donations to the PFLP. Last year, Israel banned the organization of health care in the occupied West Bank.
Feldman told reporters at the Ofer Military Court that Rashmawi “had no idea this money had been brought to the PFLP.”
“We decided to admit in a plea which clearly states that she was not aware of the money transfer to the PFLP but that she ‘suspected’ that the health organization has a connection to the PFLP,” he told AFP.
He added that the deal was intended to save him a long trial, especially in light of a possible early release.
Rashmawi was first arrested in April. His daughter Maria Rashmawi told reporters that the conviction was “important because the uncertainty of the past few months has led to a lot of anguish and it is very difficult to bear”.
The condemnation came weeks after Israel banned six major Palestinian civil society groups, alleging they were also fronts for the PFLP – which the groups denied.
The groups are Addameer, Al-Haq, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Working Committees and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees.
European donors who support banned groups and the United Nations have demanded to see concrete evidence of Israel supporting the ban.
Israeli officials said Rashmawi’s conviction proved their accusations against the other six groups were correct.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called Rashmawi’s “admission of guilt” evidence of Israel’s claims that the groups served as conduits for PFLP funds.
He urged the international community to “prevent terrorist organizations from using the veneer of civilian cover.”
Feldman rejected the description and said he would seek clarification from Israeli officials.
“She did not raise money for the PFLP,” he told reporters. “She has no connection with the six organizations that were banned.”