Muslim-majority Tunisia: Court bans 4 Israeli athletes from competing in taekwondo tournament

AP, Times of Israel, April 6, 2018.

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….