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Humanitarian Aid Worker detained by Israel

Juan Sanchez, a Spanish national, is being held by Israel as her family struggles to grasp the situation they are in.

Jerusalem24 – Mohammad Hamayel – On April 13th, 2021, at 5:45 AM more than 20 heavily armed Israeli soldiers showed up at the family home of Juan Ruiz Sanchez in the West Bank town of Beit Sahour near Bethlehem. Sanchez, a humanitarian worker, was taken for interrogation after the soldiers intimidated her husband and mother-in-law.

Meanwhile, in Spain, her daughter Maria waits anxiously for her mother’s release. In an interview with Jerusalem24, she said that, “It has been very hard I haven’t been able to see my family for maybe more than a year and a half because of the pandemic.” She added, It’s not easy to be here in Spain, while my father is in Palestine with the situation of my mom.”

Previously, on March 8th, 2021 at dawn, the Israeli military stormed the headquarters of the Palestinian Health Workers’ Committees (HWC). This is the health organization where Juana works in al-Bireh. Other employees were arrested, and computers along with documentation funded by Spanish donors related to HWC’s work were also confiscated by the Israeli military.

She was detained for a month before Israel pressed charges against her by the Israeli military court.

Maria told Jerusalem24, “The first month she was held, she didn’t have any charges. We didn’t know what was happening. When she was first detained she was detained for the sake of interrogation. They said it will be a few hours, it ended up being a month.” She continued, ” She was being interrogated for several days in that period. This is how the Israeli military system works. It was very confusing and scary, and it still is.”

“Being detained when working as a humanitarian, it makes no sense. For so long, she has dedicated nearly 30 years of her life for humanitarian aid. It is very confusing, its scary. You just don’t know what to do or what is going to happen.”

– Maria Rishmawi, Juan Sanchez’ daughter

Israel commenced a military trial of Sanchez in August, accusing her of being a member of an illegal organization. Her trial has been postponed three times. Her lawyer, Avigdor Fledman, said that “The case against our client Juana Ruiz is unfounded and is part of Israel’s effort to criminalize all external humanitarian activities and organizations in the occupied (Palestinian) territories.” Among the five charges pressed against her include illegal transfer of funds and fraud.

Israel believes the HWC diverted funds from European donations to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which is on the terrorism blacklist of the United States and the European Union. The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs at the time, Josep Borrell, said that the EU has found no evidence of misuse of funds in Palestine to date.

Regarding her mother’s trial, Maria had this to say “The charges are serious, but there is no material evidence of anything. It is something that somehow has to do with the intention stop the work of civil society and criminalize them.” She added that, “it is more of a political issue than something that someone has done.”

Maria concluded that, “this has been going on for nearly five months. We are finally advancing the process after several delays,” referring to the long period of time between her initial arrest and the beginning of her trial. “It’s exhausting,” she says and adds that “we will see what happens, and we expect the best outcome and that she will be released very soon.”

Mohammad Hamayel

Ramallah based journalist, Mohammad graduated from Al-Quds University with a B.A. in Media and Television. He has covered the 2015 Jerusalem Intifada as well as the Great March of Return for international media outlets. currently an editor/presenter at Jerusalem24. A UN alumni and a follower of global events and politics, especially American affairs.

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