Iranian police seals off Nobel laureate Ebadi’s office

December 22nd, 2008 - 5:10 am ICT by IANS  

Tehran, Dec 22 (DPA) The Tehran offices of Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi have been closed and sealed off by Iranian police, local media reported.The Mehr news agency said the interior ministry and the Tehran prosecutor’s office ordered the closure of Ebadi’s office because it was being used by the Defenders of Human Rights Centre without a legal permit.

Ebadi’s northern Tehran office has been used by the group in recent years, hosting seminars and meetings with the foreign press.

According to the prosecutor’s office, the centre had no legal permit for such activities. Therefore its statements, correspondence with local and foreign organizations and activities hosting seminars and press conferences was illegal.

As its activities were used “as ground for propaganda against the (Iranian) system,” the centre was sealed off Sunday afternoon, the report added.

Sources close to Ebadi had reported earlier that police entered the offices earlier Sunday, telling the staff to leave before sealing the office without providing a reason.

Ebadi is currently in Iran. However, it was not clear whether she was in the office at the time of the raid.

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

Before and even after the Nobel Prize, the 61-year-old lawyer and her group of attorneys frequently championed 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. Ebadi’s international status has been a key factor in helping the office avoid government actions.

Although there is no mention of Ebadi’s name in the prosecutor’s statement, it is widely known that she is the main person behind the organization.

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