Top Israeli rights lawyer deplores ‘threat’ from govt – Times of India

RAMALLAH: 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.
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 designations.
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 July 14, 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 said.
In his response to the letter, Sfard warned he would consider requesting a postponement to the July 20 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.
In the case of the six NGOs, Israel ruled they had links to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) which has been labelled a terror organisation by the European Union and the United States. Israel has not publicly shared any evidence pertaining to its decision.

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