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Protesters Accuse Iran Nobel Laureate Of Israeli Bias

Shirin Ebadi
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Some 150 protesters stood outside the home and office of Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi on January 1, accusing her of sympathy for Israel, the Islamic state's foe, a member of her human rights group said.

Abdulreza Tajik, of the Center for Human Rights Defenders led by Ebadi, said he believed they were student members of the Basij religious militia. The crowd tore down a sign of Ebadi's law practice and trampled on it, he told Reuters.

"Israel commits crime, Ebadi supports [it]," Tajik quoted the protesters as shouting in reference to the Jewish state's attacks in Gaza. He said they dispersed after police intervened.

It was not clear on what grounds they made the accusation.

Tajik said Ebadi's rights watchdog center had condemned violence against Palestinians in the Gaza strip and called for international action to stop the Israeli campaign.

A Basij leader at an Iranian medical university, Alireza Keighobadi, told the ISNA news agency that members of his organization had gathered outside Ebadi's office, which is in the same Tehran building as her home.

"Considering that Shirin Ebadi received her Nobel Peace Prize for the defense of children, we came together in front of her office to ask whether the children of Gaza are not children [to be defended]," Keighobadi said.

The incident came a day after the French Foreign Ministry said France, acting in the name of the European Union, had summoned Iran's ambassador to Paris to protest about the treatment of Ebadi.

The Iranian government raided Ebadi's law office in Tehran earlier this week less than 10 days after closing the headquarters of her human rights center, a rights advocacy group in the United States said.

Ebadi has repeatedly criticized Iran's human rights record, saying the country had the highest number of executions per capita in 2007 and a growing number of political prisoners.

Iran's judiciary said last week the closure of her center on December 21 was a temporary measure, adding that the office could be reopened "if the group obtained the necessary legal permit" for its activities.

Iran's government rejects accusations that it violates human rights and accuses its Western foes of hypocrisy.

Over the years, Ebadi's advocacy of human rights has earned her a spell in jail and a stream of threatening letters and telephone calls. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003.