Sunday, November 29, 2009

Iran Confiscates Nobel Peace Prize Medal Of Human Rights Lawyer Shirin Ebadi

One of the most consistent signs of an authoritarian regime is its treatment of human rights activists. Aung San Suu Kyi, pro-democracy campaigner and 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, has been detained for more than 11 of the past 19 years by the Burmese regime. Huang Qi, Chinese dissident who tried to help parents protesting after thousands of children died in schools too shoddily built to withstand an earthquake, was recently jailed for three years.

Iran has engaged in both brutal repression, including increased use of the death penalty, and ideological re-education to stifle protests against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's dubious landslide victory. Now, in an unprecedented move, the Iranian regime has confiscated the Nobel Peace Prize medal of human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi (above):

In Norway, where the peace prize is awarded, the government said the confiscation of the gold medal was a shocking first in the history of the 108-year-old prize.

Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts in promoting democracy. She has long faced harassment from Iranian authorities for her activities – including threats against her relatives and a raid on her office last year in which files were confiscated.

...Acting on orders from Tehran's Revolutionary Court, authorities took the peace prize medal about three weeks ago from a safe-deposit box in Iran, Ebadi said in a phone interview from London. They also seized her Legion of Honor and a ring awarded to her by a German association of journalists, she said.

Authorities froze the bank accounts of her and her husband and demanded $410,000 in taxes that they claimed were owed on the $1.3 million she was awarded. Ebadi said, however, that such prizes are exempt from tax under Iranian law. She said the government also appears intent on trying to confiscate her home.

...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.

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