April 14, 2008 / 10:05 AM / 11 years ago

Iran's Ebadi says threats against her increasing

TEHRAN, April 14 (Reuters) - Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate and human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi said on Monday the number of threats made against her and her family had increased in recent months.

Ebadi, an outspoken critic of the Islamic Republic’s human rights record, sent a letter to the head of the Iranian police with copies of three anonymous handwritten warnings she said she had received. Her office faxed the material to Reuters.

"Threats against my life and security and those of my family, which began some time ago, have intensified," wrote Ebadi, 60, who won the Nobel prize in 2003 for her work in defending human rights.

"I defend only victims of human rights (violations), free of charge. Therefore, those individuals who wish my death have no personal enmity against me but are opposed to my thoughts and ideas," the mother of two wrote.

One of the threats said: "Shirin Ebadi, your death is near." Another accused Ebadi of "un-Islamic behaviour which coincides with Baha’i manners" despite what it said were repeated warnings.

The Baha’i faith is an offshoot of Islam considered heretical by Iran’s Shi’ite Muslim establishment.

Ebadi told Reuters last month that Iran’s human rights record had regressed in the past two years, citing what she said was a rising number of political prisoners and the highest number of executions per capita in the world last year.

In the interview, a few days after March 14 parliamentary elections, she also said Iran used elections to mask a lack of true democracy in its tightly controlled system.

Over the years, Ebadi’s struggle has earned her a spell in jail and a stream of threatening letters and telephone calls, she told Reuters. "When you believe in the correctness of your work, there is no reason to be afraid of anything," she added.

The Iranian government rejects accusations that it violates human rights and accuses Western critics of hypocrisy and double standards. (Reporting by Hashem Kalantari; Editing by Tim Pearce)



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