OSLO, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Norway accused Tehran on Thursday of confiscating the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to human rights campaigner Shirin Ebadi in 2003 and said freedom of expression was under "great pressure" in Iran.
The Foreign Ministry said Ebadi’s gold Nobel medal and her award diploma had been removed from her bank box together with other personal items.
"This is the first time a Nobel Peace Prize has been confiscated by national authorities," Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said in a statement.
"Such an act leaves us feeling shock and disbelief," said Stoere. A Norwegian committee picks the Nobel peace laureates, while Nobels in other categories are chosen in Sweden.
The ministry summoned Iran’s charge d’affaires to protest the confiscation and expressed "grave concern" about the treatment of Ebadi’s husband, who it said had been arrested in Tehran and severely beaten.
Stoere said the "persecution of Dr. Ebadi and her family shows that freedom of expression is under great pressure in Iran", which last year also shut Ebadi’s human rights centre.
"Norway will continue to engage in international efforts to protect human rights defenders and will follow the situation in Iran closely," Stoere said.
A spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry was not immediately available for comment.
Tensions in Iran soared after a disputed presidential election in June, which returned hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power but set off the biggest anti-government demonstrations in the 30 years of the Islamic republic.
The 2003 prize also included a cheque for 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.45 million). The statement did not mention the money. (Reporting by Wojciech Moskwa; Editing by Jon Hemming) ((email@example.com; +47 22 93 69 62; Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org)) ($1=6.910 Swedish Crown)