October 23, 2008 / 11:21 AM / 11 years ago

Malaysia bars Nobel laureate Ebadi amid protests

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia has revoked an invitation to Iranian Nobel laureate and rights advocate Shirin Ebadi to give a speech following protests by the Iranian government, officials said Thursday.

Human rights groups slammed the move, saying it was inexcusable and showed Malaysia’s disregard for fundamental rights.

Ebadi, a vocal critic of Iran’s human rights record, had been slated to speak on Islam and cultural diversity at Kuala Lumpur’s University of Malaya on November 3.

But the state university withdrew the invitation following an objection from its sizeable Iranian student community, said a government official who declined to be identified.

But Ebadi told Reuters in Tehran that Iranian students were not behind the cancellation, blaming pressure from the Iranian government.

“There was an explicit reference to this fact in a letter sent to me by the Malaysian Foreign Ministry that it was the Iranian government that called for the cancellation of the speech,” she said.

“However, I have been told that many human rights groups, both in Malaysia and southeast Asia, have voiced protest to this decision by the university,” she added.

Iranian diplomats in Malaysia were not immediately available for comment.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran and the Asian NGOs Network on National Human Rights Institutions condemned the move.

“The Iranian government uses all its might to muzzle Dr. Ebadi and her human rights advocacy inside Iran. It is extremely disturbing that now the Malaysian government is doing the same on behalf of the Iranian government,” they said in a joint statement.

Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts promoting the rights of women and children in Iran.

Additional reporting by Hashem Kalantari in Tehran; Editing by Jeremy Laurence

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