Filipina tourist held for three weeks at airport on charges of ‘romance’


(eTN) – A tourist from the Philippines was held in custody at Ben-Gurion International Airport for more than three weeks because the Interior Ministry feared she would conduct a romantic relationship with the Israeli man she was planning to visit, and settle in the country.

The Tel Aviv Administrative Court ordered her release on Thursday, on condition that the man put up NIS 35,000 in bail. He will have to forfeit the money if she remains in Israel for more than three months.

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Daisy Baril, who arrived in the country November 21, first got to know her Israeli friend, Daniel Pinhas, on the Internet five years ago. Since then, Pinhas has visited her twice in the Philippines and traveled to Hong Kong with her.

After questioning Baril at the airport, Interior Ministry officials decided she was intending to conduct a romantic relationship with Pinhas – who, like Baril, is in the process of getting a divorce – and refused to allow her entry into Israel. Baril was placed in custody after winning a court injunction preventing her deportation.

“There is a serious concern that the petitioner wants to settle in Israel,” the Interior Ministry told the court, presided over by Judge Michal Agmon-Gonen. One reason the ministry cited was that Baril declared she had come as a tourist, but during questioning said she was coming to visit a man she knew. State representatives also argued that the interior minister has broad discretion over the granting of entry permits.

Baril and Pinhas said they had no intention of living together and that all they wanted to do was tour the country, noting that Baril has a return ticket to the Philippines.

The judge upheld the state’s right to detain visitors for fear they would conduct a relationship here and want to remain in the country, but said that did not apply in this case at this time.

“The fear that the petitioner will stay is reasonable,” ruled Agmon-Gonen. However, she added, “it is certainly possible that at this stage the petitioner has come just for a visit, and only at some later stage in the future, after Mr. Daniel Pinhas completes his divorce proceedings, that he will ask in an orderly fashion for the petitioner to be allowed to arrive to be his partner.”

Oded Feller and Yonatan Berman, lawyers who run a Hebrew-language blog called “Laissez Passer,” call the case “real insanity.”

“And what if Baril is Pinhas’ partner?” they asked on their blog. “Where do the Interior Ministry and prosecution people get the audacity to get involved in that?”

Feller and Berman said the court should have taken a stand against the Interior Ministry.