Iran Seizes Nobel Winner Shirin Edabi’s Medal

  Iran has confiscated the Nobel peace medal and diploma of Shirin Ebadi, the human rights lawyer who is one of the hardline regime’s most outspoken critics. Her bank account has also been frozen on the pretext that she owes almost £250,000 in tax.

The seizure of the award, unprecedented in its 108-year history, caused outrage in Oslo, where the Nobel Peace Committee is based. The Norwegian Government summoned the Iranian envoy to protest, and the committee said that it would make a formal complaint.

“Such an act leaves us feeling shock and disbelief,” said Jonas Gahr Støre, the Norwegian Foreign Minister.

Geir Lundestad, secretary of the committee, said that Iran’s action was unacceptable. “A laureate has never been treated like that. In 2003 Dr Ebadi became the first Iranian and first Muslim woman to win the peace prize, which was awarded for her campaign for democracy and human rights.

She revealed the loss of her Nobel medal in an interview on Radio Farda, a US-backed Persian language station. She said that the regime had frozen her bank accounts and pension, as well as those of her husband, who is still in Tehran. She continued: “Even my Nobel and Légion d’honneur medals, my Freedom of Speech ring and other prizes, which were in my husband’s safe, have been confiscated.”

Norwegian officials said that the medal had been taken from a bank deposit box.

Dr Ebadi, 62, told another interviewer: “They say I owe them $410,000 in back taxes because of the Nobel. It’s a complete lie, given that the Iranian fiscal law says that prizes are excluded.” The prize money was $1.4 million.

She said that she was trying to recover her property through legal means, but “so far, no judge has dared to review our complaint”.

The confiscation of Dr Ebadi’s prizes is only part of the regime’s campaign to silence her. It has closed her Centre for the Defence of Human Rights in Tehran and locked up three of her colleagues. She has been denounced in the state-controlled media and charged in absentia with conspiring against the State. Her husband was badly beaten this autumn and her apartment is said to have been seized.

In an interview with The Times in September Dr Ebadi said that the Intelligence Ministry had repeatedly interrogated her husband and brother, ordered them to shut her up and told them that it could track her down anywhere in the world. “In effect they have threatened me with death,” she said.

She insisted that she would continue to denounce the regime’s brutality — the shooting of innocent protesters, imprisonment, beating and torture of opponents — and the use of show trials and forced confessions. “Naturally the Iranian Government doesn’t want the world to know what’s happening in Iran, so it’s my duty to inform as many people as possible.”


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