BERLIN – A federal court in Germany upheld the Interior Ministry’s ban on the Frankfurt-based Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) because the Turkish NGO contributed funds to Hamas.
Hamas is recognized by the European Union, Israel and the United States as a “terrorist organization” and Leipzig’s Federal Administrative Court found that the IHH donated money to the group.
The NGO challenged the decision of Germany’s former interior minister Thomas de Maizieres, who outlawed the IHH in July 2010. He said at the time that the IHH “fights against Israel’s right to exist.”
Maizieres added that “organizations that operate from German soil, directly or indirectly, with the aim of fighting Israel’s right to exist, have forfeited their right to freedom of association.”
The IHH helped sponsor the 2010 flotilla, a convey that sought to break Israel’s naval blockade on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara was intercepted by Israeli naval commandos, which resulted in the deaths of eight Turkish and one Turkish-American activists, and injuries to Israeli sailors.
According to the Federal Administrative Court ruling, “the IHH sent a significant amount of collected money over a long period of time to the Islamic Society and the Salam Society for Relief & Development.
These social organizations, which are active in the Gaza Strip, are, according to the Federal Interior Ministry, part of the overall structure of Hamas.”
The court concluded that Hamas engages in “terroristic actions and violence” against both Israelis and Palestinians.
Reinhard Marx, the attorney representing IHH, told the daily Tagesspiegel on Thursday that the “decision sends a catastrophic decision signal to the Muslim community” because it denounces charity as support for terrorism. Marx, a Frankfurt- based attorney who specializes in international law affecting foreigners, claimed that the IHH has provided support for 3,200 Palestinian orphans in 2009 since Israel’s Cast Lead offensive in Gaza sought to stop Hamas rocket attacks.
The German court viewed IHH’s “social engagement” as a way to enable Hamas to recruit activists, who would function as terrorists, and strengthen its organizational and political legitimacy in Gaza.
The court justified its IHH ban as based in precedent, referencing a 2004 Leipzig court decision that upheld the prohibition on the NGO Al-Aksa. “Although the top members of the IHH were aware of the court’s decision, the now-banned organization took over its activity and sought to conceal its activity. The IHH made clear that it identified with the Hamas and its acts of violence,” the court wrote.
A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy told The Jerusalem Post when the 2010 Interior Ministry ban was issued that “with great satisfaction we have noted the German government’s decision to outlaw IHH, the terror organization that was behind the Gaza flotilla.”