Zaka Raises $120,00 Needed to Ransom Israeli Captive in Unspecified Muslim Country

Yerushalayim (Andrew Friedman/TPS) – The Israeli ZAKA Search and Rescue Organization has reportedly collected the $120,000 ransom demand for the release of Ben Hassin detained in an unspecified Arab state, and done so in less than 24 hours.

ZAKA Chairman Yehuda Meshi Zahav launched a fundraising appeal on The Chesed Fund Tuesday afternoon following Hassin’s father public plea for help.

“We listened to an emotional call from the father of the detainee and the Foreign Ministry to step in and help raise the amount required for Hassin’s release. We realized immediately that time was not in our favor, and that should the trial take place on Sunday, before the ransom being paid as agreed in negotiations by the authorities, there was a very likely chance that Hassin would be facing the death penalty,” explained Meshi Zahav.

The ZAKA Spokesperson stated that the money is to be transferred to the unspecified state in the coming days.

Ben Hassin, a 21-year-old Israeli man, was accused of killing a taxi driver in an Arab country that does not maintain diplomatic relations with Israel, he has reportedly been tortured in that country.

“[Ben] is in jail in a country that we do not have diplomatic relations with. I can say that the young man is in very poor health, that he has been threatened inside the jail and is kept in solitary confinement,” MK Ayoub Kara (Likud) told TPS.

Hassin is believed to have visited Kurdistan to visit his grandparents in 2015, and to have joined a local militia to fight the Islamic State while there. While travelining in a taxi, the taxi driver discerned that he was Israeli and wanted to turn him over to ISIS, Hassin has been charged with killing the driver once he realized his life was in danger.

In a phone interview with TPS, MK Kara confirmed the basic outline of the story and said the family of the taxi driver had demanded $120,000 in blood money, and the government of the country that is holding Hassin has threatened to execute him “soon” if the money would not be paid.

The issue was complicated by the fact that the charges against Ben Hassin was criminal in nature, rather than security-based. That meant the Israeli government could not legally pay the bribe.

Update from Zaka:  Yerushalayim, February 15, 2017 – In late January, the ZAKA Search and Rescue organization, which cooperates with the Israel Foreign Ministry in humanitarian missions overseas on an ongoing basis, answered in good faith the request of the ministry and the Hassin family to assist in helping save the life of Ben Hassin. According to the father, his son Ilan was facing a possible death sentence in a Middle Eastern country with no diplomatic relations with Israel, and the payment of a ransom could lead to a lighter sentence, as is customary in the country in question.

A crowd-funding online campaign facilitated by ZAKA met the $120,000 target within 24 hours. Since that time, the donated money has been held in escrow, until the ZAKA attorneys are satisfied that the money will be transferred through legal channels and reach its intended target. This due diligence is essential for an organization that insists on financial transparency.

However, despite the alleged urgency of the situation, after more than two weeks, the family has yet to answer the requests of the ZAKA attorneys, who are ready and willing to transfer the money – but only to an escrow account set up for the agreed purposes, and with proper legal documentation to ensure the money reaches its target. Instead, the family has only provided details of private bank accounts, or private organizations.

Despite claims by the father to the contrary, ZAKA is in regular contact with reputable bodies in the Islamic country who are working to try and free Ben Hassin or ensure a lighter sentence. Following a personal visit to the accused in prison, it was reported that Ben is in good health.

ZAKA Chairman Yehuda Meshi-Zahav: “We were drawn into this story in good faith by the Israel Foreign Ministry and the Hassin family, as a humanitarian organization whose mission is to save those who can be saved. Our donors trust ZAKA to work only through legal and transparent channels to carry out its mission, and therefore we refuse to hand over their money without being 100% satisfied that it will be used for its stated purpose. It pains us that that ZAKA’s reputation and willingness to help in humanitarian issues has been exploited. Nonetheless, we continue to monitor the situation through other credible channels on the ground and await the relevant information. If we are not satisfied, then all the monies will be returned to the donors.”

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