Iranian officials confiscate rights lawyer’s Nobel medal
TEHRAN - Iranian authorities have confiscated Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi’s medal, her lawyer and Norway’s government said yesterday, in a sign of the increasingly drastic steps they are taking against any dissent.
In Norway, where the peace prize is awarded, the government said the confiscation was a shocking first in the history of the 108-year-old prize.
Ebadi, a human rights lawyer, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts in promoting democracy. She has long faced harassment from Iranian authorities for her activities, including a raid on her office last year.
The seizure of her prize is an expression of the Iranian government’s harsh approach to anyone it considers an opponent, particularly since the massive street protests triggered by hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed June 12 reelection.
Norwegian authorities were told that Ebadi’s medal was seized “within the last week or so’’ from a safe-deposit box in Iran along with personal effects including the diploma awarded with the medal, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry said.
Ebadi has criticized the Iranian government’s crackdown on demonstrations by those claiming the June vote was stolen from a pro-reform candidate through massive fraud.
Ebadi was out of the country at the time of the vote and has not returned since, saying she is “in an effective state of exile.’’
After the vote, she urged the international community to reject the outcome and called for a new election monitored by the United Nations.
During the past months, hundreds of pro-reform activists have been arrested, and a mass trial has sentenced dozens to prison terms.
Calls to Iranian judiciary officials were not returned.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee was planning to send a letter of protest to Iran.