[JURIST] The Iranian government was accused Thursday of confiscating the Nobel Peace Prize medal awarded to human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi [Nobel profile; JURIST news archive]. The government seized the medal from Ebadi's safety deposit box in Tehran and froze her bank accounts three weeks ago, claiming that Ebadi owes $400,000 in taxes for the $1.3 million she was awarded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee [official website]. The Chairman of the Committee penned a letter [text, PDF] to the Iranian embassy in Oslo stating
It is…totally unacceptable that parts of Dr. Ebadi's property, including the Nobel medal and the Nobel Diploma, have been confiscated by the authorities…The Norwegian Nobel Committee urge Iran to live up to its commitments, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights…Many laureates, including Shirin Ebadi, have received the Prize because they insisted that their governments follow the basic principles of human rights. Some of these laureates were put in prison for an extended period of time. Yet, even in these cases their Nobel medals and diplomas were not confiscated.
The act is seen as an effort by Tehran to quiet dissidents, who have been actively protesting the controversial reelection [JURIST news archive] in June of Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her promotion of democracy in Iran and defending the rights of women and children. She openly criticized the recent presidential elections and the treatment of protesters detained by the government. Ebadi has declared that she will not be deterred [AFP report] by the pressure of the Tehran government, and will continue fighting against human rights violations in Iran.
Ebadi has a history of conflict with Iranian government. In June Ebadi penned an open letter [text] to Ahmadinejad requesting for him to reopen the offices of her human rights group, which the Iranian security forces raided and closed [JURIST report] in December 2008. The Iranian judiciary declared that the office of Ebadi's Defenders of Human Rights Center [official website] did not have the proper legal permits. In May 2008 Ebadi's organization released its annual report in which it condemned the government [JURIST report] for continued harassment and intimidation of dissidents, students, reporters, labor activists, and other government critics. The report also criticized the government's increased policing of women's veils and the harsh punishments meted out to women found to be insufficiently covered, considering the practices to be violations of women's rights. In 2007, Ebadi urged the UN to investigate allegations that the Iranian government had been detaining women's rights activists [JURIST report] and charging them with national security offenses.