JERUSALEM — Human Rights Watch asked an Israeli court Wednesday to block the planned deportation of its local director.
Israel this month ordered Omar Shakir to leave the country, claiming he supports boycotts of Israel. The group says that neither it nor Shakir, a U.S. citizen, support boycotts and accuses Israel of trying to muzzle criticism of its human rights record.
The group says Israel's case is based on comments made by Shakir years ago when he was a university student and do not reflect his work at Human Rights Watch.
Wednesday's lawsuit also accuses Israel of improperly enforcing an anti-boycott law. It says the law, used to prevent boycott activists from entering the country, does not apply to people who are already in the country with valid visas.
"This outcome is blood curdling as it means the creation of databases on the political views, opinions and statements of civilians," the suit says.
Israel's Interior Ministry, which oversees immigration policy, said it would only comment on the lawsuit in court. But it said Interior Minister Arye Deri has the authority to decide who gets permission to be in the country.
Shakir has been ordered to leave by midnight Monday.
The dispute comes as rights groups are criticizing Israel over the killing of dozens of Palestinians during a mass march along the Gaza border fence this week. However, the dispute predates the latest Gaza violence.