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U.S. Condemns Harassment Of Iranian Nobel Laureate

Shirin Ebadi leaves her office after authorities closed it down in December
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The United States has criticized the harassment in Iran of Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi and said such actions were part of an "increasingly hostile campaign" that targeted activists.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack urged Iran's government to abide by its human rights commitments and obligations.

"The United States condemns the continued harassment of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi," McCormack said in a statement late on January 2.

He noted that on December 29, Iranian authorities raided Ebadi's law office and seized computers and confidential files of her clients. Then on January 1, about 150 protesters stood outside Ebadi's home and office, accusing her of sympathy for Israel, the Islamic state's foe.

"With our friends and allies in the region and the world, we stand with the people of Iran who are trying peacefully to exercise their universal human rights," said McCormack.

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 human rights center's headquarters on December 21 was a temporary measure and 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.

Human Rights Watch and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran also urged Iran's government to immediately end its "campaign of persecution" against Ebadi.

"The mob violence occurring after the Iranian government unleashed its campaign of persecution against Shirin Ebadi shows that her life is in great danger," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of leading rights group Human Rights Watch.

He said attacks against Ebadi appeared to be related to her contacts with UN officials who were compiling a report on human rights in Iran, adding that world leaders should make clear their support for Ebadi.