Israeli athletes banned from taekwondo championship in Tunisia
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Israeli athletes banned from taekwondo championship in Tunisia

Tunis court rules 4 Israelis will not be allowed to participate in world junior championships starting Friday, following petition from group opposed to ties with Israel

Illustrative: Ron Atias of Israel, and Venilton Teixeira of Brazil compete in the men's Taekwondo event at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Illustrative: Ron Atias of Israel, and Venilton Teixeira of Brazil compete in the men's Taekwondo event at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

TUNIS, Tunisia  — A court in Tunis has banned four Israeli athletes from competing at the taekwondo world junior championships after a group of activists opposed to normalization with Israel filed an urgent lawsuit.

The competition is being held in the Tunisian seaside resort of Hammamet from April 6-13.

A judicial official said the court rendered its decision earlier this week after the Tunisian group known as the National Commission for Supporting Arab Resistance and Opposing Normalization and Zionism sued the president of the Tunisian taekwondo federation, Ahmed Gaaloul.

Prosecutor’s spokesman Sofiane Selliti told The Associated Press that the court decision stipulates that Gaaboul can’t invite, or host, the four Israeli athletes — Dana Azran, Nicol Adamskt, Abishag Semberg and Tom Pashcousky — whose names were on the list of contestants.

Gaaloul told the AP in a phone interview that the athletes will not be invited because they did not complete the paperwork to enter the tournament.

The plaintiffs argued in their lawsuit, which was published by local media, that the athletes’ presence would clash with constitutional provisions and agreements signed by the Tunisian government. They argue that Tunisia has committed “to denouncing and refusing Zionist occupation and colonization, as well as boycotting and not dealing with the Zionist entity (…) in any way.”

Gaaloul said the activist group “misled the judges and used subterfuges” to exploit public opinion.

There was no immediate reaction from the Israeli taekwondo federation.

Muslim and Arab states or athletes often boycott Israeli competitors. An Egyptian judoka refused to shake hands with his Israeli opponent at the Rio Olympics last year, and Tunisia’s tennis federation ordered the country’s top player to withdraw from a match against an Israeli opponent at a tournament in 2013.

In October, an Israeli delegation was allowed to take part in the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam judo tournament, but were barred from identifying as Israeli or displaying national symbols.

The entire Israeli team was required to compete without any Israeli identifying symbols, and had been told before the tournament that there would be no acknowledgement of their home country — a discriminatory policy imposed solely on the Israeli competitors.

Israeli gold-medalist judoka Tal Flicker at the award ceremony at the Judo Grand Slam in Abu Dhabi, where local judo authorities banned all Israeli symbols, October 26, 2017. (YouTube screen capture)

The Israeli contestants were listed as representing the International Judo Federation. When one of them won a medal, organizers refused to play the national anthem.

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