IRAN: Authorities confiscate lawyer Shirin Ebadi's Nobel Peace Prize
Less than a year after authorities stormed the offices of Iranian human-rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi, taking sensitive documents and her computer, unidentified authorities have now allegedly taken the Nobel Peace Prize medal and diploma from Ebadi's bank safety deposit box, said officials in Norway, which administers the prize.
Outraged officials in Oslo say the incident is unprecedented and has sent shock waves through the Norwegian foreign ministry.
“This is the first time a Nobel Peace Prize has been confiscated by national authorities," Norwegian foreign minister Jonas Gahr Store said in a statement posted to his agency's website. "The medal and the diploma have been removed from Dr. Ebadi’s bank box, together with other personal items. Such an act leaves us feeling shock and disbelief.”
Ebadi was awarded the prestigious prize in 2003 for her many years of legal work advocating on behalf of Iranian political activists, religious and ethnic minorities, women and children. She was the first Iranian to win the prize.
But intimidation and harassment from Iranian authorities have become a part of everyday life for Ebadi. She has had her home vandalized, apparently by members of hard-line political groups close to the government, had her office raided and shut down by police, and has received scores of death threats.
But the latest incident was just too much for the Norwegians, who summoned the Iranian charge d'affaires in Oslo to a meeting Wednesday with Norwegian State Secretary Gry Larsen. Larsen voiced her strong opposition to the confiscation of Ebadi's prize.
Foreign Minister Store added that Norway from now on will keep an extra close eye on events in Iran.
"During the meeting with the Iranian chargé d’affaires," he said, "we made it clear that Norway will continue to engage in international efforts to protect human-rights defenders and will follow the situation in Iran closely."
Ragnhild Imerslund, of the Norwegian foreign ministry, told The Times in a telephone interview that although she had no detailed information regarding the circumstances surrounding the confiscation, she believed it took place "a week ago or so."
In its statement, the Norwegian foreign ministry also expressed concern over the treatment of Ebadi's husband by Iranian authorities.
They say his pension is not being paid and that his bank account has been frozen. He also was detained in Tehran earlier this fall and subsequently beaten, they said.
-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut
Photo: Shirin Ebadi in front of her office in Tehran with colleagues. Credit: EPA