[JURIST] Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] denounced Iran [press release] on Wednesday for threatening to prosecute the Iranian Center for Defense of Human Rights (CDHR) [Wikipedia backgrounder], a human rights group based in Tehran founded by 2003 Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi. Last week, the Iranian Interior Ministry [official website] banned the group, calling it illegal because it did not have a proper permit. CDHR was created four years ago by six lawyers and works to promote the rights of prisoners of conscience and dissidents in Iran, but the government has been critical of the rights advocate and has promised to prosecute any further activities by the group. Ebadi said the group has applied for a permit, which was denied with no explanation, and further contends that the Iranian constitution [text] does not mandate permits for "non-governmental organizations that observe the law and do not disrupt public safety."
One of the group's members, Abdolfattah Soltani [Amnesty International appeal; Wikipedia profile], was sentenced to five years in prison [JURIST report] last month for disclosing confidential information and engaging in propaganda against the regime despite never having stood trial for the charges against him. The center has also represented the family of Canadian-Iranian photographer Zahra Kazemi [CBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], who died in Iranian custody in July 2003. Ebadi said her group plans to fight the ministry's decision using all available legal options. UPI has more.