Israel 'threatens' rights lawyer representing Palestinian NGO Al-Haq

Israel 'threatens' rights lawyer representing Palestinian NGO Al-Haq
3 min read
The lawyer representing one of the Palestinian NGOs listed as a 'terrorist' organisation by Israel last year has slammed a letter from Israeli authorities which 'threatened' him for 'engaging in entirely legal work'.
Israel's decision to give six Palestinian NGOs a terrorist designation has been rebuked by EU states and the US [Getty]

A top Israeli human rights lawyer went public on Monday with an alleged "threat" from the country's defence ministry over his work for a Palestinian NGO labelled a terrorist group by the state.

Attorney Michael Sfard represents Al-Haq, one of six Palestinian organisations hit with a "terrorist" designation by Israel in October in a move that triggered outrage worldwide.

Nine European governments said last week they will maintain cooperation with the NGOs, on the grounds that "no substantial information" had been presented to support the terror designations.

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Sfard published a letter on Monday from a defence ministry lawyer, which referred to him receiving fees from "terrorist organisations".

"We hereby draw your attention to the provisions of Section 32(d)(1) of the Law concerning the legal avenues for transactions in terrorist property," said the letter, dated 14 July, which was seen by AFP.

In a written response, Sfard said the letter suggested he could face seven years in prison for representing Al-Haq.

He interpreted it as "a governmental threat made against a lawyer engaging in entirely legal work".

The letter came days before Sfard and other lawyers are due to appeal the designation of three of the NGOs.

The defence ministry said the note was sent as "routine procedure".

"This letter does not constitute any type of threat, it simply references the instructions that apply to the lawyers in order to receive their fees," the ministry said in a statement to AFP.

Such notes have been sent to "all the lawyers representing designated terrorist organisations", the statement claimed.

In his response to the letter, Sfard warned he would consider requesting a postponement to the 20 July appeal hearing if the ministry does not retract it.

Speaking to AFP on Monday, the lawyer said: "My representation is compromised if it is done under circumstances in which there is a threat hanging over me."

In more than a decade representing such organisations, Sfard said this is the first time he has received such a letter.

Israel designated the Palestinian groups as terrorist organisations last year and accused them of funnelling donor aid to militants, a move that drew criticism from the United Nations and human rights watchdogs worldwide.

The groups include Palestinian human rights organisations Addameer and Al-Haq, which document rife rights violations by both Israel and the western-backed Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. 

Nine European Union states said they would continue working with the six Palestinian civil society groups despite the designation.