Israel accused of ‘witch hunt’ over visa ban

Human Rights Watch's Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir, a US citizen, sits at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 9, 2018. (AFP / ABBAS MOMANI)
Updated 17 May 2018
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Israel accused of ‘witch hunt’ over visa ban

  • Human Rights Watch country director Omar Shakir was issued with a deportation notice by Israel earlier this month after his work visa was revoked.
  • A dossier compiled against Shakir by Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy said he “has actively and consistently supported strategies calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel since his early days as a student.”

AMMAN: Human Rights Watch (HRW) has launched a legal bid to prevent the Israeli government deporting its country director over claims that he expressed support for a boycott of the Jewish state.

Omar Shakir, a US citizen and graduate of Stanford University in California, had his work permit revoked this month despite denying the allegations. 

HRW and Shakir submitted a 145-point, 29-page petition to the Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday, accusing Israel of conducting a “witch hunt” aimed at silencing its critics.

Shakir said the legal action will challenge a controversial Israeli law introduced last year to prevent activists who support an international cultural and economic boycott from entering the country.

“This is a draconian law aimed at muzzling any human rights professional whose work opposes the policies of the state of Israel,” Shakir said.

The law sought to punish individuals for expressing political opinions even before applying for a work permit, he added.

HRW is based in the US and has about 400 staff around the world.

In a statement released after the deportation notice was served early this month, the group republished a dossier it said had been compiled against Shakir by Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy.

Noting that he is “an American citizen of Iraqi origin,” the dossier said Shakir “has actively and consistently supported strategies calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel since his early days as a student.”

The document recommended Shakir “be stripped of his work visa and denied re-entry into the country.”

On May 7, the Israeli government issued HRW with a notice ordering Shakir to leave within 14 days. However, the petition to the Jerusalem court yesterday claimed the deportation order was part of an “Orwellian scenario” and a “witch hunt.”

“The decision is tainted by grievous bad faith” based on previous attempts to stop HRW working in Israel and the occupied territories, the petition said.


Saudi Arabia arrests 13 accused of planning terrorist attacks

Updated 7 min 9 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia arrests 13 accused of planning terrorist attacks

  • Four attackers were killed in failed terrorist attack claimed by Daesh on Interior Ministry building in Zulfi
  • The Presidency of State Security released identities of the 4 attackers

RIYADH: Thirteen people were arrested after finding plans to execute criminal acts that were targeting the Kingdom’s security, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Monday.
The statement published by SPA included the names of the 13 men arrested, in addition to their civil ID numbers.
The spokesperson for the Saudi Presidency of State Security said explosive belts were found during a raid on the house of the Zulfi attackers.
Four heavily armed attackers were killed in a failed terrorist attack claimed by Daesh on an Interior Ministry building in Zulfi, north of Riyadh on Sunday.
The four terrorists that were killed belonged to Daesh.
The Presidency of State Security released the identities of the four attackers: Abdullah Hamoud Al-Hamoud, Abdullah Ibrahim Al-Mansour, Samer Abdulaziz Al-Madid and Salman Abdulaziz Al-Madid.

Saudi authorities discovered a house in Al-Rayyan neighborhood in Zulfi governorate, rented by Abdullah Al-Hamoud, one of the four perpetrators, where they found what resembled to be a factory for manufacturing explosives and explosive belts.
A total of five explosive belts were found, four of which were worn by the perpetrators, and another inside a car. The belts contain detonating keys and grenades with shrapnel-like screws.
Authorities also seized 64 homemade grenades, 61 pipe fittings, of which nine were being processed as pipe bombs, three mobile phones, three pressure cookers ready for detonation, two Kalashnikov machine guns, six pistols, and other various weapons.
They also found four bags (74,900 kg) containing organic fertilizers, along with sets of laboratory glass containers, a number of plastic containers, a package of liquid chemical containers, sulfur-fiber cartons, a homemade explosive detonator and a set of screws that were equipped with shrapnel.
Authorities also seized a set of ATM cards, two national identity cards, SR 228, a number of publications and CD-ROMs with content related to terrorist organization.
The Presidency of State Security said it is continuing to follow up with terrorist elements that threaten the security and stability of the Kingdom.