Le Pays De France - Israel releases Spaniard jailed for funding militants: officials

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Israel releases Spaniard jailed for funding militants: officials
Israel releases Spaniard jailed for funding militants: officials

Israel releases Spaniard jailed for funding militants: officials

A Spanish aid worker who pled guilty to inadvertently funding an outlawed Palestinian militant group walked free Monday after 10 months in jail, the Israel Prison Service said.

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Juana Rashmawi, 63, was sentenced in November to 13 months in prison after a military court convicted her of working with an organisation that it said was funding the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

The PFLP is a leftist militant group blamed for previous attacks on Israelis.

Last week, an Israeli judge agreed to her early release, and on Monday, a prison spokesperson told AFP that Rashmawi had "walked out the door."

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said in a statement that he spoke to Rashmawi on the phone, after she had arrived in the West Bank and met with her family.

He said he told her of his "satisfaction at her release."

Rashmawi, known in Spain as Juana Ruiz and married to a Palestinian, said she was "very happy" for the support she had received from Spain, Albares added in a statement.

Israeli forces arrested Rashmawi in April. She confessed in her November plea deal to unknowingly funding the PFLP via her work for a Palestinian group, the Union of Health Work Committees, which Israel said funnelled European donations to the PFLP.

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

The Israeli army claimed Rashmawi raised "funds amounting to millions of (shekels) over years from European countries" for the health group, which it claimed "operated on behalf of" the PFLP.

Her lawyer Avigdor Feldman told AFP last month that Rashmawi "was not aware that the money was transferred from the organisation to the PFLP."

The deal required Rashmawi to pay a fine of 50,000 shekels (nearly $16,000). Feldman said Rashmawi had signed the deal to avoid a lengthy trial.

Earlier in February, 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."

Weeks before Rashmawi was sentenced, Israel outlawed six other prominent Palestinian civil society groups, charging that they too were fronts for the PFLP -- an allegation the groups denied.

The United Nations and European governments which have donated funds to the banned groups have asked to see concrete evidence from Israel of the allegations against them.