Court allows expulsion of human rights activist

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the government could expel the head of Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine office, who is accused of supporting boycotts against the country.

The ruling marks the likely culmination of the protracted effort to remove Omar Shakir, a U.S. citizen, and an escalation of Israel’s efforts to prevent critics from operating in the country under new laws that equate supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) with challenging Israel’s right to exist.

Others have been denied entry visas under the laws, including two U.S. congresswomen in August, but Shakir, who first had his work permit revoked in May 2018, would be the first to be expelled. He has 20 days to leave.

Shakir told The Washington Post that the government had mined social media posts from his days at Stanford University to portray him as a BDS activist. In his four years as an employee of Human Rights Watch, he said, neither he nor the organization has advocated for boycotts against Israel or companies doing business here. They do call on companies not to operate in Israeli settlements, which they say violate international humanitarian law.

Israel has said that its actions were limited to Shakir and that Human Rights Watch was welcome to name a replacement.

— Steve Hendrix and Ruth Eglash


Troops reopen roads blocked off in protests

Troops who deployed Tuesday in different parts of Lebanon to reopen roads and main thoroughfares closed by anti-government demonstrators faced resistance in some areas.

In most places, protesters withdrew peacefully as the troops moved in. But in Zouk Mosbeh, a northern suburb of Beirut, a scuffle erupted when some demonstrators refused to move away from the main highway linking Beirut with northern Lebanon. Troops detained several protesters.

Protesters have been demanding an end to widespread corruption and mismanagement by the country’s political class. The demonstrations have paralyzed Lebanon by closing urban roads as well as major highways. Protesters have rejected an economic reform plan, demanding deeper changes to the government and election laws.

Last week, Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned, meeting a key demand of the protesters.

— Associated Press

Nigerian police free 259 held at Islamic institution: Nigerian police freed 259 people being held at an Islamic rehabilitation center in the southwestern city of Ibadan, authorities said, adding that some complained of being beaten regularly by their captors. It was the latest of several raids on Islamic institutions in Nigeria in recent weeks. More than 1,000 people, many of them children, have been rescued in total. Many have said they were physically and sexually abused.

American among 3 prisoners in escape from Thai court: An American was among three prisoners who staged a violent escape from a courthouse in Pattaya in eastern Thailand, officials said. The three reportedly escaped while being moved from a holding area to a courtroom. They face drug-trafficking charges that carry a possible death sentence. Closed-circuit TV footage showed one of them stabbing a guard who tried to stop them, and another forcing a guard at gunpoint to hand over keys to unlock a secured area so they could escape in a nearby pickup truck. The American was identified as Bart Allen Helmus, 40, and is believed to have stabbed the guard.

Jehovah's Witness follower in Russia sentenced to 6 years in prison: A Russian court sentenced a Jehovah's Witness adherent to six years in prison on a charge of organizing an extremist group, according to the Investigative Committee, which handles major crimes. Russia has targeted followers of the Jehovah's Witnesses, a Christian denomination, since a 2017 ruling by the Supreme Court declared the group an extremist organization and ordered its disbanding. Sergey Klimov, 49, was head of the Jehovah's Witnesses in the Siberian city of Tomsk, the Investigative Committee said. He is the eighth Jehovah's Witness member to receive a prison sentence since the law went into effect, the group said.

— From news services