Nobel laureate calls on U.N. chief to visit Iran

SEOUL Tue Aug 11, 2009 3:33am EDT

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi speaks to the media during a news conference in Seoul August 11, 2009. REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi speaks to the media during a news conference in Seoul August 11, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Jo Yong-Hak

SEOUL (Reuters) - Iranian Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi on Tuesday called on the U.N. chief to visit Iran to receive a first-hand account of human rights abuses and warned against sanctions because they would hurt the Iranian people.

Iran's June 12 election, which secured hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election, plunged Iran into its biggest internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution, exposed deepening divisions in its ruling elite and set off a wave of protests that left 26 people dead.

"I ask U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to visit Iran," Ebadi told reporters in Seoul, where she picked up a local peace prize. "He must speak to the families whose members have been arrested or killed."

Ebadi contends that more than 100 people have been killed.

Ebadi, Iran's most famous human rights lawyer, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 and has called for U.N. observers to scrutinize a fresh vote in Iran. Her influence in Iran is seen as limited, analysts said.

In an attempt to uproot the opposition, Iran began two mass trials of more than 100 people, including prominent figures, a French woman and two Iranians working for the British and French embassies in Tehran.

It charged them with spying and assisting a Western plot to overthrow the clerical rule. The United States and its European allies have rejected the trials as a "show," while Ebadi said they were "ridiculous" and must be stopped.

"The trials show that the administration is weak. These mass trials are not in line with the laws of Islam," she said through a translator.

The United Nations has imposed three rounds of sanctions on Iran so far, but there appears to be little appetite for a fourth round.

China and Russia, two of Iran's key trading partners, have made clear they will not accept new sanctions at the moment. The 27-nation European Union, meanwhile, is split on the idea of targeting Iran's energy industry.

"I do not want economic sanctions but for the world to share the pain of the Iranian people," Ebadi said.

(Additional reporting by Christine Kim In Seoul and Parisa Hafezi and Reza Derakhsi in Tehran)