Shirin Ebadi (right) with the now jailed Abdolfattah Soltani (file photo) (AFP)
PRAGUE, August 10, 2006 (RFE/RL) – Two prominent western nongovernmental rights organizations are demanding that Iran revoke a decision to outlaw the Center of Human Rights Defenders, an advocacy group led by 2003 Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi.
On August 2, Iran's Interior Ministry said Ebadi's organization had no valid registration permit and that its activities would be therefore considered illegal. It also threatened to prosecute it.
Amnesty International says in a statement the ban highlights "the continuing erosion in the human rights situation in Iran" and says the targeting of Ebadi's group is "symbolic of the climate of intimidation and harassment endured by Iran's community of human rights defenders in the course of their work."
In a separate statement, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders describes Tehran's decision as "a new bid to silence human rights activists" and recalls that one of the center's lawyers, Abdolfattah Soltani, was on July 16 sentenced to five years in jail "for opposing the regime."
Ebadi's center has defended several prominent Iranian activists and dissidents in the past, including the family of Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian-Iranian photographer who was beaten to death in a Tehran prison last year.