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IRAN: Authorities hand back Shirin Ebadi's Nobel Peace Prize medal

December 11, 2009 |  8:01 am

Nobel-peaceIranian authorities have handed back the Nobel Peace Prize medal taken from the bank safety deposit box of laureate Shirin Ebadi, Norwegian officials acknowledged in an announcement posted on the website of the country's foreign ministry.

Unnamed Iranian officials allegedly broke into Ebadi's safety deposit box last month and swiped some of her personal belongings, including her Nobel medal. 

The incident sparked a diplomatic row, with Iranian officials demanding that Norway back off and alleging that Ebadi was suspected of tax fraud, charges she called lies.

Even though Iranian officials have returned the medal, diplomats from Sweden and Norway, homes to the institutions that help administer the Nobel Prizes, called attention to her treatment during the awarding of this year's peace prize to President Obama.

"Ms. Ebadi is prevented from working as a defender of human rights in her home country, and the Iranian authorities have closed the Defenders of Human Rights Center of which she was co-founder," Norway’s foreign minister, Jonas Gahr Stoere, and his Swedish counterpart, Carl Bildt, said in a statement issued Thursday. 

"The confiscation of the medal and the numerous threats directed at her, her family and her colleagues give cause for great concern and are yet another example of the worsened human rights situation in Iran since the election in June this year,“ the statement said.

Ebadi is currently in Europe, but that hasn't stopped Iranian hard-liners from attacking her.

A recent commentary in the right-wing Iranian newspaper Resalat said the prize proved that Ebadi had the support of "foreign enemies" of the Islamic Republic. 

Another commentary in the right-wing newspaper Javan called her, along with Zahra Rahnavard, the wife of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, instruments of the West's "soft war" against Iran.

Ali Avai, a spokesman for the judiciary, told the Iranian Students News Agency this week that prosecutors "intend to start comprehensive investigations" of the row over the Nobel medal and the freezing of Ebadi's assets.

-- Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Photo: Nobel Peace Prize. Credit: Nobel Prize website

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