Israel to free Spanish aid worker jailed under 'funding militants' accusation

Israel to free Spanish aid worker jailed under 'funding militants' accusation
Spanish aid worker Juana Rashmawi was given an early release after being jailed in November in Israel under accusations that she funded the PFLP.
3 min read
01 February, 2022
Juana Rashmawi was given an early release [Getty]

An Israeli judge agreed Tuesday to the early release of Spanish aid worker Juana Rashmawi, who was jailed in November for illegally funding a Palestinian militant group, her lawyer said.

Attorney Avigdor Feldman said he expected Rashmawi to be freed within a week, provided the state does not appeal the parole board decision to release her early from her 13-month sentence.

"This was the right decision, it was supposed to be taken a month ago and the prosecution or the state has no grounds to appeal this decision," Feldman told AFP.

"I hope she will be released in next seven days."

Rashmawi was sentenced in November after a military court convicted her of working with an organisation that it said was funding the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a leftist militant group blamed for previous attacks on Israelis.

She had already spent some months in custody awaiting trial which were counted towards her sentence, her lawyer said.

Rashmawi had been working for a Palestinian group, the Union of Health Work Committees, which Israel said funnelled European donations to the PFLP.

In 2020, Israel banned the aid group from working in the occupied West Bank.

In her November plea deal, Rashmawi claimed she did not know the health organisation had been funding the PFLP.

The deal required her to pay a fine of 50,000 shekels (nearly $16,000). She was arrested in April last year, and Feldman said she signed the deal to avoid a lengthy trial.

"In the indictment against her, it says very clearly that she was not aware that the money was transferred from the organisation to the PFLP, if it was transferred," Feldman said.

"It was not proven even that the money was transferred."

Rashmawi holds Spanish citizenship and the Spanish ambassador to Israel attended the parole board hearing in Nazareth on Tuesday at which the decision was handed down.

Judge Chanan Efrati wrote that he approved Rashmawi's early release in part because "the prisoner is an older woman and this is her first incarceration ... It's reasonable to assume that after her release she will leave Israel for Spain, where her family lives."

The military court sentenced Rashmawi just weeks after Israel

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.