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Malaysia Bars Iranian Nobel Laureate Ebadi Amid Protests

Shirin Ebadi in Tehran in July
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) -- Malaysia has revoked an invitation to Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi to give a speech following protests by Iranian government and students, officials have said.

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.

Malaysia's Foreign Ministry has also written to the university advising it not to host Ebadi after Tehran warned Kuala Lumpur the move could jeopardize bilateral ties, the official added.

"She will not be attending," said Uwe Morawetz, chairman of the Vienna-based International Peace Foundation, which is facilitating a series of lectures in Malaysia by Nobel Prize winners.

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.