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Iranian journalist and blogger ToI threatened with deportation 5 years after Israel took her in

Neda Amin, Iranian-born journalist, former Times of Israel Persian site reporter and Times of Israel blogger, who sought refuge in Israel in 2017, faces deportation on the orders of Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked .

Amin told Channel 12 on Monday that she was “shocked” by the way she is being treated and has nowhere to go. His lawyer, Tomer Warsha, appealed Shaked’s decision to the Jerusalem Court of Appeals, calling it a violation of international refugee law.

Amin was ordered to leave the country within a year following a recommendation from the Shin Bet, which alleged that she was in contact with Iranian intelligence officials. Warsha described the allegation as “a fig leaf” and an “excuse” to coerce Amin out. He noted that Amin had been questioned about the allegation in the past: “She was not arrested, no action was taken against her and she posed no danger.”

A committee that investigated Amin’s application for refugee status in Israel unanimously recommended that he be granted such status. A Justice Department recommendation to the committee said she had been ‘hunted’ in Iran and that her life had been in danger due to her public criticism of Iranian authorities, and called her a ‘credible’ candidate .

Warshaw told The Times of Israel that Minister Shaked failed to follow the necessary legal procedures to deal with the case, “and we believe the court will recognize the mistake that was made and grant Amin refugee status.” .

Amin left Iran in 2014 for Turkey, where she worked as a journalist, including for the Times of Israel’s Persian website. In the summer of 2017, Amin contacted ToI to say her life was in danger: her writing for an Israeli website, as well as her other writing elsewhere, had led to her being repeatedly questioned by Turkish police. , she recounted, and had now been told she was at risk of being deported from the country. She said she feared for her life, fearing Turkish authorities would send her back to Iran.

Alerted to her fate, the Israeli authorities expedited the necessary checks and procedures, she was granted a visa to enter Israel by then Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, and officials at the Israeli consulate in Turkey helped pave the way for his entry.

Iranian-born journalist Neda Amin at The Times of Israel office in Jerusalem, August 10, 2017. (Tamar Pileggi/TOI)

In 2019, Times of Israel editor David Horovitz – who met Amin at the airport when she landed in Israel – appealed for her to be granted permanent status in Israel allowing her to work, to build a new life and obtain citizenship. Neda told The Times of Israel that she aspired to begin the process of formal conversion to Judaism, but was blocked.

Amin was recognized as a UN refugee while living in Turkey, but has been forced to extend her Israeli ‘temporary visitor’ permit every three months since her arrival, and has fought authorities in an attempt to obtain permanent refugee status.

On Monday, it was revealed that Interior Minister Shaked had ordered Amin, who has a young Israeli-born daughter, to leave Israel within a year. Amin said her daughter holds Israeli citizenship, but she fears it will be taken away.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked holds a press conference at Ben Gurion Airport on March 13, 2022. (Roy Alima/Flash90)

In a statement to the Shin Bet TV station, the Shin Bet said Amin had been under investigation while in Israel for contacts with Iranian intelligence officials, and that she continued to be in contact with them “despite a clear warning from security officials about this. ”

Amin told Channel 12 on Monday that she only spoke to one of these people about personal matters and that she maintained the connection because of her work as a journalist, and that she passed on all the information she had at the Shin Bet.

The Shin Bet confirmed in 2018 that there was no evidence of illegal activity on his part.

“They broke my heart,” Amin was quoted by Channel 12 as saying Monday. “When I arrived in Israel, they treated me like a princess or a queen with a red carpet.”

In comments to ToI, Amin noted that she had been living freely in Israel for nearly five years and that the minister had told her she could live here for another year, and asked, “How is it possible if I am a danger to Israel? Security?”

Lawyer Tomer Warsha (Courtesy)

Warsha, a prominent immigration lawyer who represents Amin, said he appealed the decision in court and that any justification ostensibly provided by the Shin Bet for his deportation was “a fig leaf” used by Shaked .

Says Warsha: “I don’t recall a case like this where the minister makes a decision that contradicts the recommendation of the professionals in the ministry, and in opposition to a team of experts who have studied and researched the case and have made a decision.”

In further comments to The Times of Israel, Warshaw said, “After the Interior Ministry’s Refugee Unit recommended that Neda be recognized as a refugee, and the Refugee Committee also unanimously recommended to recognize Neda as a refugee, the case was taken to the Home Secretary for his final decision based on the recommendations. The problem, it seems, was that there was no professional authority guiding the minister on the requirements for determining the case. Refugee laws explicitly state that a person eligible for refugee status can only be refused in extreme circumstances, such as a case of crimes against humanity or war crimes. »

According to these demands, continues Warsha, “the decision of the Minister of the Interior is manifestly unreasonable, since Neda has never been suspected of such crimes, nor arrested, nor charged with anything, and even the Minister allowed her to stay in Israel for another period. year. Obviously, if Neda was a public danger, she would be removed from public view. The fact is that the Refugee Committee also saw no reason [to raise any such concerns]. In light of this, we have appealed to the court against the decision, and we believe that the court will acknowledge the mistake that was made and grant Neda Amin refugee status.

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David Horovitz, founding editor of The Times of Israel

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