Tehran guarantees Iranian Nobel peace laureate’s safety

January 5th, 2009 - 4:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Tehran, Jan 5 (DPA) Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi was safe and there was no need for any international concern over her well-being, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi said Monday.The spokesman was referring to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who Saturday urged Tehran to secure Ebadi’s safety after Islamists gathered outside her residence in Tehran last week, accusing her of having sympathy for Israel in the Gaza crisis.

“She is safe and sound and we will protect her like we do for every other Iranian citizen,” the spokesman told a press conference. Ghashghavi confirmed the protest gathering in front of Ebadi’s house but said there have been several demonstrations in connection with the Gaza crisis and termed the gathering as no serious matter.

He blamed Ebadi “to refer to foreign sources for complaining about her own country,” calling it “not a good idea”.

Ebadi and her colleagues feel themselves harassed by Islamists following a police raid last month and the closure of one of her Tehran offices used as Centre for the Defence of Human Rights, under the pretext that the office had no legal licence.

Spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi said that there was a biased approach towards Ebadi but she should follow the laws and obtain a licence for the centre and pay the relevant taxes.

He added that she has been asked in recent years to obtain the necessary permit but she has so far refrained from doing so.

The closure of the human rights lawyer’s office raised protests from within the European Union (EU) and the US.

The Iranian judiciary said last month that Ebadi could resume the centre’s work as soon as she obtained the licence, adding that no charges were brought against any of the centre’s members.

Ebadi herself, who is quite critical of the government, especially with regards to women rights and human rights in general, said the closure was illegal and vowed to continue working from other locations.

Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for promoting human rights and democracy in Iran. She was the first Iranian and the first Muslim woman to receive the honour.

The 61-year-old lawyer and her group of attorneys frequently champion controversial cases related to dissidents, women activists and religious minorities.

Her activities were tolerated by former reformist president Mohammad Khatami. Current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has also taken no action against the office in the last three years.

Her critics say that Ebadi should have no immunity because of her Nobel prize and should not be allowed to openly make critical remarks on Iran’s internal and external policies.

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