The United Nations is criticizing Israel for detaining and expelling a United Nations human rights envoy on Monday, who was investigating the Israeli treatment of Palestinians.

Israel says it stopped Richard Falk, the UN Human Rights Council monitor for the Palestinian territories, at Ben-Gurion International Airport after he landed Sunday because it perceives him to be severely biased.

Falk, professor emeritus at Princeton University, has been unrelenting in his criticism of Israeli policies. Prior to his appointment, Falk was widely quoted as comparing Israeli policies in the territories to those of the Nazis during them Holocaust.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay says Israel's treatment of Falk was unprecedented and deeply regrettable. Her office said Falk traveled to Israel on his U.S. passport and with a certificate proving he was undertaking an official UN mission to the Palestinian territories.

United Nations General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto also condemned the expulsion, following his recent criticism of the Israeli delegation to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights assembly.

UN official: Israeli delegation spreading 'malicious lies'

United Nations General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann on Tuesday charged that the Israeli delegation has spread a "malicious lie" by asserting that he tried to bar its envoy from addressing a human rights session.

The accusations deepen an already existing rift with Israel. D'Escoto, the American-born former Nicaraguan foreign minister and a pro-Sandinista Roman Catholic priest who has chaired the General Assembly since September, also charged that he had received >death threats following the assertion.

In a special statement read by his spokesman Enrique Yeves, d'Escoto denounced as a "criminal act" of "slander" the charge, reported in Israeli media, that he had tried to keep Israeli Ambassador Gabriela Shalev from speaking at an assembly session marking the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

An Israeli spokeswoman condemned d'Escoto's remarks as "outrageous and ridiculous."

"This is a malicious and absolute lie that could best be characterized as slander and in any court of law this is a criminal act," Yeves said of reported remarks by Shalev, quoted last week in the Jerusalem Post accusing d'Escoto of trying to block her participation in the commemorative meeting.

According to d'Escoto, following the charges that he said were spread by senior officials in the Israeli delegation, "very serious threats have appeared on the internet" against his life.

"This matter is being looked into by the pertinent authorities," Yeves told reporters. "Also the security staff at the UN is taking it very seriously." Yeves said D'Escoto was already taking unspecified "extra security measures" for protection. It was not immediately clear who was behind the reported threats.

In response to d'Escoto's remarks, Israeli UN delegation spokeswoman Mirit Cohen issued a heated press release.

"The president of the Assembly must act as a unifying force. fostering the common values and interests of all member states," Cohen said in the statement. "Despite this, since entering his position, Mr. d'Escoto has exploited his post , voicing unacceptable declarations, which have prompted criticism from much of the international community.

"Following the outrageous and ridiculous declaration issued by the Assembly president, Israeli Ambassador Gabriela Shalev cancelled the meeting with him which he had initiated."

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