Israel's military justice postpones the trial of the Spanish aid worker to prepare her defense
Juana Ruiz, Spanish aid worker detained in Israel.Image provided by the family

An Israeli military court in the West Bank has postponed this Wednesday the recently started trial of the 62-year-old Spanish aid worker Juana Ruiz Sánchez until July 7. The decision on the process of the humanitarian worker, who was arrested on April 13, was agreed after her lawyer, the Israeli lawyer Gabi Lasky, challenged a procedure that has prevented her from visiting her client for the first time until the day before the hearing, despite the fact that the Military Prosecutor made the accusation of financing terrorism on May 6,

After being detained without charge for about a month and finally being accused of belonging to an “illegal organization” that diverted funds from international cooperation to a Palestinian group classified as a terrorist, Juana Ruiz had her right to defense restricted, as warned by his lawyer, who specializes in defending so-called “security cases” in the Palestinian territories. The lawyer Lasky He had access to the summary ordered by the military justice on the basis and investigations and interrogations carried out by the Shin Bet (internal intelligence service), but until the last moment he had not been able to share its content with the Spanish aid worker.

The first hearing before the military court of Ofer (in the West Bank, 20 kilometers north of Jerusalem) was held briefly in response to the petition presented by the lawyer, according to diplomatic sources informed of the Spanish consular assistance in the trial of the humanitarian worker. A European diplomatic source familiar with the case regretted that the forced postponement will prolong the duration of the process and the stay in prison of the Spanish citizen, especially after the military justice denied in May a request for her to remain free or under house arrest pending trial.

Juana Ruiz is currently in a prison in northern Israel, where she is no longer in solitary confinement in a cell, a situation that lasted for about a month in a prison near Tel Aviv, and she can interact with other inmates. His situation has improved, according to the diplomatic sources consulted, after having been able to receive personal belongings sent by his family via consular assistance.

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The aid worker’s lawyer has pointed out that the charges against her are related to her work for decades with the Palestinian NGO Health Work Committees (CTS), which Israel has recently described as an “illegal organization”. Military forces broke into the headquarters of this health association in Ramallah in March, where they made arrests and seized files and computer records.

Based in Palestine since 1984, Juana Ruiz coordinates within CTS the cooperation of Spanish associations and entities in the field of health in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. She is married to a Palestinian pharmacist trained in Spain and lives in Beit Sahur, in the province of Bethlehem, where she was arrested at dawn on April 13 by about twenty soldiers.

Shin Bet Interrogations

As a resident of the West Bank – a Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967 – she has been subjected to military jurisdiction, which allows detention for up to 75 days without the need to press charges. Shin Bet investigators maintain that the Spanish humanitarian worker – cited in the Hebrew press as Juani Rashmawi, by her married name – participated in a network to “illegally smuggle funds into the Palestinian territories” that were diverted to the Popular Liberation Front of Palestine (PFLP), a group considered terrorist by Israel and the European Union, “through fraud, forgery and deception” of donors from European countries.

Legal and diplomatic observers who have closely followed his case maintain that the minimum procedural guarantees have not been respected, and that Israel breached the Vienna Convention on consular assistance, since the arrest of Juana Ruiz was not communicated from the first moment to the Spanish authorities.

In a statement released by the solidarity campaign with the aid worker, Spanish organizations that work in cooperation with Palestine have denounced that the charges brought against Juana Ruiz are “inconceivable.” “Spanish cooperation is extremely guaranteeing”, they maintain, and is subject to successive management and budgetary control audits. The Office of the Spokesperson for the Israeli Armed Forces has not responded to EL PAÍS’s request for its version of this case.

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