- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS (AP) - A prestigious Dutch human rights award was presented Friday to two groups from Israel and the Palestinian territories even though the director of the Palestinian organization was banned from attending the ceremony.

The Geuzenpenning medal has been presented to Palestinian group al-Haq and Israeli organization B’Tselem at a ceremony in the southern Dutch city of Vlaardingen.

The foundation that makes the annual award praised both groups for their “independent and critical” monitoring of rights abuses in the occupied territories.

The director of al-Haq, Shawan Jabarin, was not able to attend the presentation because Israel refused to lift a travel ban it imposed on him.

Hans Mathijssen, who helped organize the ceremony, said Jabarin was able to watch live through a computer link with Ramallah.

“So, Mr. Jabarin was virtually present at the ceremony,” Mathijssen said.

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled Tuesday there was evidence Jabarin is involved with terror groups. Jabarin denies the accusation and the organization that presents the medal condemned the decision.

Geuzen Resistance Foundation spokeswoman Edith Kwakernaak said Tuesday the organization was “shocked and disappointed” at the court’s decision.

Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen also expressed his disappointment after lobbying unsuccessfully for Jabarin to be allowed to travel to the Netherlands.

The prize recognizes human rights works and is awarded by a foundation named for a Dutch World War II resistance movement.

Previous winners include kidnapped Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and watchdog groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

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