World News

Iran denies it confiscated Ebadi's Nobel medal

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran Friday denied Norway’s accusation that it had confiscated the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to human rights campaigner Shirin Ebadi in 2003.

Slideshow ( 2 images )

“We are surprised to see Norwegian authorities taking a tendentious stance and in a hasty attitude ignoring laws and rules which are respected by everyone,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, in comments carried by the semi-official Mehr news agency.

Norway’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday that Ebadi’s gold Nobel medal and her award diploma had been removed from her bank box, together with other personal items, and summoned Iran’s charge d’affaires in protest.

It also said Ebadi’s husband had been arrested in Tehran and severely beaten. The Iranian statement made no reference to that accusation.

A Norwegian committee picks the Nobel peace laureates, while the other Nobel prize winners are chosen in Sweden.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned Norwegian ambassador Magnus Werndstedt Friday to protest at “Oslo’s interference in Iran’s state affairs,” the students news agency ISNA said.

“During the meeting, Foreign Ministry officials expressed surprise and dismay at Oslo’s support for Ebadi’s violation of the country’s tax laws,” ISNA reported.

Ebadi left Iran just before the disputed June 12 presidential vote, which secured President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election by a wide margin.

Ahmadinejad’s reformist opponents cried foul and thousands of Iranians took to the streets in the biggest anti-government demonstrations in the 30-year history of the Islamic Republic.

The election and its aftermath exposed deep rifts within the clerical establishment.

Ebadi told Reuters in early November that she would return to Iran “pretty soon,” adding that the reason for her stay in the West was to talk there about what was happening in Iran.

Thousands of moderates were arrested after the election. Most of them have since been freed, but 81 people have been sentenced to jail terms of up to 15 years and five have been sentenced to death.

The reformist opposition says more than 70 people were killed in post-election violence. Officials say the death toll was half that and included volunteer Basij militiamen.

Reporting by Ramin Mostafavi, writing by Parisa Hafezi, editing by Tim Pearce