[JURIST] The Interior Ministry [official website] of Iran [JURIST news archive] has prohibited a human rights group led by 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi [BBC profile] from operating in the country, saying the group has neglected to obtain an appropriate permit, according to Iranian media reports Saturday. The Defenders of Human Rights Center [Wikipedia backgrounder] 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. AFP has more.