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Supreme Court freezes expulsion of HRW director as it considers his appeal

Omar Shakir has petitioned to halt his deportation, ordered by the Interior Ministry last year and upheld by a lower court in April

Human Rights Watch's Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 9, 2018. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)
Human Rights Watch's Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 9, 2018. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)

The Supreme Court has issued a ruling allowing the local director of Human Rights Watch to remain in Israel while he fights a deportation order.

A lower court in April upheld Omar Shakir’s deportation by the Interior Ministry, saying his activities against West Bank settlements amounted to a boycott of the country. Israeli law bars entry to those who have publicly supported a boycott of Israel or its settlements.

Shakir, who is a US citizen, had appealed to the court to allow him to stay for the duration of the proceedings.

In Sunday’s ruling, the Supreme Court did not set a date, but said the appeal should be heard in the current court year ending July 21.

The Interior Ministry’s May 2018 decision to deny Shakir his work and residency permits was due to his alleged support of a boycott of Israel over its policies toward Palestinians — a claim accepted by the district court.

HRW denied the group or Shakir promoted a boycott of Israel, calling the April district court ruling a “new and dangerous interpretation of the law,” since it equated boycotting businesses operating in the West Bank to boycotting Israel.

UN rights officials and Democratic congressmen urged Israel not to deport Shakir, warning of the implications to Israel’s openness and freedom of expression.

In 2017, Israel passed a law granting the government the right to ban entry to foreigners who support boycotting the country. The law was passed in response to the movement to boycott Israel.

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