TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) _ A group of American Indians defied U.S. government restrictions on travel to Libya and accepted a $250,000 prize from Moammar Gadhafi to honor their ''struggle for freedom.''

Col. Gadhafi, the Libyan leader, did not attend the ceremony Monday night, which was used to criticize the ''imperialist policies'' of the United States, Israel and the West. Speaker after speaker called the U.S. and other Western governments ''gangsters.''

Mohawks, Chippewas, Dakota Sioux and Choctaws, some wearing feather war bonnets, joined indigenous peoples from Canada, Mexico, Chile, Bolivia and Panama to receive the ''Gadhafi International Prize on Human Rights.''

The 21 representatives of North and South American tribes said the $250,000 would go into a fund for all Indian nations.

Abdel-Hamid el-Sayeh, head of the Palestine National Council or the Palestinian parliament-in-exile, and Farouk Abu-Issa, the head of the Arab Lawyers Union, were among the prominent speakers.

They praised the American Indians' struggle against white domination, drawing parallels with the Palestinians fight to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza strip.

Ruth Deeny, an American Indian from Minneapolis, said she did not believe U.S. allegations that Gadhafi sponsors terrorism.

''I fully realize what his reputation is. Many of our people were considered terrorists, such as Crazy Horse,'' she said, referring to the 19th century Sioux warrior.

''I don't believe it. If they call (Gadhafi) a terrorist, they have to call Bush a terrorist for killing all these people in Iraq.''

Relations between Washington and Libya are strained, espcially since the the U.S. government accused Gadhafi of aiding terrorists who carried out December 1985 attacks at the Rome and Vienna airports that killed 19 people.

Washington imposed economic sanctions against Libya on Jan. 7, 1986, including restrictions on Americans travelling to Libya and a ban on Americans working here.

Gadhafi's prize was founded in 1989. It was first awarded to South African black leader Nelson Mandela. In 1990, it was given to the children of the Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza.

This year, the Libyan leader said he chose the American Indians because of the approach of 1992, the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' voyage to America.