LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A leading Muslim charity, accused by Israel of funding terrorism, says an independent audit has found no evidence to support the allegation.
Israel banned the British-based aid agency Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) from operating in the occupied West Bank in June, accusing it of funnelling money to the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.
IRW said it had commissioned an independent investigation of its activities in the West Bank which looked at the systems it had set up to ensure "that no money gets into the wrong hands".
"It found that those systems and processes are working well and there is absolutely no evidence of any links with terrorism," the charity said in a statement on Friday.
Islamic Relief has not named the 'leading global audit firm' which carried out the investigation or published the audit because of what it calls "sensitivities in the region" and the need to ensure people's safety.
But the charity, whose partners include major U.N. agencies, said the findings were in line with those of dozens of independent audits conducted each year into its operations in more than 40 countries.
"Not one of these many audits over many years has found a shred of evidence that Islamic Relief funds terrorism or has terrorist links anywhere in the world," the statement said.
"Islamic Relief abhors terrorism in all its forms. We are an impartial, independent, purely humanitarian organisation whose sole focus is to alleviate poverty and suffering - even in the most challenging, conflict-riven and inhospitable of places."
It said the suspension of its West Bank activities had denied support to 78,000 poor and vulnerable people including orphans, widows and small farmers.
Islamic Relief said it had delivered 155 million pounds ($245 million) worth of aid and assistance worldwide last year.
A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in London said on Friday that Israel stood by its designation of Islamic Relief as an "unlawful association" and repeated a previous statement that the charity funnelled millions of dollars a year to Hamas.
Hamas's stated aim is the destruction of the state of Israel, and it has been designated a terrorist group by Israel, the United States and the European Union.
Hamas and Fatah, the two biggest Palestinian political parties, formed a U.S.-backed unity government in June, implementing a reconciliation agreement signed in May 2011 that followed several years of hostility between the two.
Hamas has charitable networks as well as armed cadres, which has contributed to its popularity among Palestinians. ($1 = 0.6361 pounds)
(Reporting by Emma Batha, Editing by Tim Pearce)
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