Bildt berates Iran over treatment of laureate

As Stockholm gears up for Thursday's Nobel banquet, the foreign ministers of Sweden and Norway have lashed out at Iran for its treatment of 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, who says Iranian authorities confiscated her medal.

“Shirin Ebadi is one of many courageous people who use peaceful means to try to increase respect for human rights in Iran. We react very strongly to the treatment to which Shirin Ebadi has been subjected,” said Carl Bildt of Sweden and Jonas Gahr Støre of Norway in a joint statement.

Ebadi had said Iran froze her bank accounts and confiscated her Nobel laureate’s medal, awarded in 2003 in recognition of her campaign for democracy and human rights in her homeland.

“We were dismayed to receive the news that the Iranian authorities had recently deprived Ms Ebadi of the medal and diploma,” the ministers said in a statement released in Stockholm ahead of a ceremony to award the 2009 prize to President Barack Obama.

Although the medal and diploma had since been returned to Ebadi, “her situation continues to be serious” and numerous threats had been directed at her and her family and colleagues, they said.

The threats and the confiscation of the medal and diploma “give cause for great concern and are yet another example of the worsened human rights situation in Iran since the election in June this year.

“Sweden and Norway urge the Iranian authorities to allow Ms Ebadi’s safe return to Iran and to allow the Defenders of Human Rights Centre to reopen so that she can resume her important work for human rights in the country,” they added.

Ebadi has been an outspoken critic of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose re-election in June sparked mass opposition protests. Ebadi left Iran on the eve of the poll to attend a conference in Spain, and has not returned since.

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