Babylon & Beyond

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IRAN: No permit, no human rights center

December 22, 2008 |  7:36 am

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Hasan Qashqavi had a simple explanation for why authorities shut down Nobel Peace Prize-winning lawyer Shirin Ebadi's small human-rights center during an event Sunday: They had no permit to operate.

Qashqavi"Bear in mind that the center had no license or accreditation to be active," he told reporters at his weekly press briefing. "In a country where a carpenter, a grocery or butcher shop can not work without an official accreditation,  why on earth does the center expect to work?"

Qashqavi said the center's closing was a judicial matter but that the "the Islamic Republic of Iran was very, very tolerant of the center for years" by letting them work without proper accrediation.

"Of course, if they get the accreditation, there will no problem for them," he added.

Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, another prominent human-rights lawyer and colleague of Ebadi's, wasn't buying it. First off, he said, the Sunday raid violated Iran's constitution, which guarantees the right of assembly unless an event violates Islam or involves armed activity.  In 1975, Iran signed off on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, obliging it to respect the right of assembly.  "Freedom of assembly is a right of every citizen," he said.

Also, he said, Ebadi's human-rights center did obtain accreditation under former President Mohammad Khatami.

"I am afraid that Mr. Spokesman has not been informed about our dossier and center," he said.

-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran

Photo: Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi. Credit: Islamic Republic News Agency