Court freezes deportation of Human Rights Watch Israel director
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Court freezes deportation of Human Rights Watch Israel director

Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 9, 2018. (Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli court has frozen the expulsion order against the local director of Human Rights Watch, who was ordered deported over his past involvement in the BDS movement.

The Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday issued an interim injunction ordering the Interior Ministry to allow Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine director, to remain in the country until the end of legal proceedings.

The court reasoned that the revocation decision was based on “old facts” that predated the grant of the work permit and that “the status quo must be preserved,” the NGO said in a statement.

The ministry had denied Shakir a new work visa and ordered him to leave the country this week.

The Interior Ministry had compiled a seven-page dossier to support its deportation order against Shakir. Much of the dossier covers a time period before Shakir assumed his position at Human Rights Watch, including a great deal of his time at Stanford University.

According to the organization, the lawsuit is the first legal challenge to a 2017 law that bans from Israel those who publicly call for boycotts of the country.

When Shakir, a native of California, was first appointed to his position in February 2017, he was denied both a work visa and a tourist visa. A month later, he was allowed entry to Israel, the same day the Knesset passed a law banning entry to foreigners who publicly call for boycotting the Jewish state or its settlements. The following month he was granted a work visa.