Israeli Judge Says Interior Minister Pressured Her to Change Ruling on Ukrainian Refugees

Tel Aviv District Court Judge Michal Agmon-Gonen has ruled against several decisions by the Population and Immigration Authority to deport Ukrainian refugees

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Tel Aviv District Court Judge Michal Agmon-Gonen at a hearing on Ukrainian refugees facing deportation.
Tel Aviv District Court Judge Michal Agmon-Gonen at a hearing on Ukrainian refugees facing deportation.Credit: Hadas Parush

Tel Aviv District Court Judge Michal Agmon-Gonen complained to the Supreme Court President that Israel's interior minister tried to exert inappropriate pressure on her with the intention of influencing her rulings regarding Ukrainian refugees arriving in Israel.

Representatives of Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said that no appeal was made to Agmon-Gonen, "neither directly nor indirectly."

Shaked recently changed the procedures within the authority for refusing asylum requests, such that the hearings would not be held in Agmon-Gonen's court.

In a hearing held at the Tel Aviv District Court on April 6, Agmon-Gonen said that the Interior Ministry had tried to exert indirect pressure on her. “Over the past few days, I have been approached indirectly by the ministry, in an unwarranted attempt to make me change my considerations in rulings regarding Ukrainian citizens now arriving in Israel,” she said. The Israeli daily Globes reported Sunday that Agmon-Gonen was referring to Shaked.

Agmon-Gonen said these efforts by the interior ministry were an attempt to influence her considerations on a specific case – an appeal by two Ukrainian citizens, a mother and her daughter who is a minor. The two were facing immediate deportation by the Population and Immigration Authority after they were questioned at Ben-Gurion International Airport upon arrival to Israel. This contradicts Israel's current policy which allows Ukrainian refugees 48 hours to exercise all of their legal options before being deported.

At the end of the hearing, the judge submitted the minutes of the hearing to Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, and a clarification meeting was held – during which Agmon-Gonen told Supreme Court President Esther Hayut that the person who approached her had been sent by Shaked.

The director of the court’s office said that “the investigation of this matter has been completed.”

In recent weeks, Agmon-Gonen has ruled against several decisions to deport Ukrainian refugees by the Population and Immigration Authority. Officials within the authority have been frustrated by her rulings, filing appeals with the court in Jerusalem.

Shaked altered the procedure of asylum requests so that decisions to refuse refugee status would now be signed personally by the head of the Population and Immigration Authority rather than by more junior officials – including Judge Agmon-Gonen. According to the Interior Ministry, this decision was made "in light of the delicate situation vis-à-vis Ukraine, in which each refusal is a complicated case.”

In response to the reports, Minister Shaked's office said: "We want to clarify that Minister Shaked never asked Agmon-Gonen for anything, neither directly nor indirectly, and never asked any other person to talk to the judge. On the contrary, Agmon-Gonen asked Interior Minister Shaked to promote her to the Supreme Court, and to pressure the [former] head of the Bar Association, Effi Nave, to support her appointment, in contrast to the procedures followed by the Supreme Court President."

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