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Iran keeps Nobel laureate's office shut

  • Story Highlights
  • Iran shuts down offices headed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi
  • Human rights campaigner was briefly held during raids on her offices
  • Ebadi earned Nobel Peace Prize in 2003; she is the first Iranian to win the honor
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From Shirzad Bozorgmehr for CNN
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TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- The European Union on Monday strongly condemned Iran's closure of Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi's offices in Tehran.

Shirin Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her human rights work.

Shirin Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her human rights work.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the EU "calls on Iranian authorities to respect their international human rights commitments and the right to peaceful assembly."

France holds the rotating EU presidency.

Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel laureate, told CNN that Iranian security forces on Sunday raided and shut down the offices, which house two non-governmental organizations she directs.

The raid reportedly happened as guests were arriving for a belated celebration of the 60th anniversary of the U.N.'s Human Rights Day.

The offices were still closed on Monday.

Ebadi told CNN that Iranian authorities had not given her an explanation for the crackdown, although both of the NGOs had been operating without a government permit.

The offices include the Center for Participation in Clearing Mine Areas, which helps victims of landmines in Iran, and the Defenders of Human Rights Center, which reports human rights violations in Iran, defends political prisoners and supports those prisoners' families.

Ebadi heads both NGOs and funds them with her 2003 Nobel Peace Prize earnings.

A spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry said that the Defenders of Human Rights Center was closed under judicial orders because it did not have a permit, according to IRNA, Iran's state-run news agency.

"Carpenters, grocers, bakers and even lawyers need to have legal work permits," the spokesman, Hassan Qashqavi, said in the IRNA report. "By the same token, an organization such as the Defenders of Human Rights should also have a legal permit for its activities.

"The fact that this center has been working for several years without a permit is testimony to the tolerance of the Islamic Republic."

The center had invited several hundred people to attend Sunday's Human Rights Day celebration, but Iranian security forces who shut down the building blocked them from entering, according to Etemad-e-Melli, an Iranian reformist newspaper.

The report in Etemad-e-Melli noted that Iranian rules and regulations allow gatherings without a permit if they are held in a closed and covered area.

Ebadi described the raid as illegal. She has said in the past that the Iranian government routinely shuts down NGOs without reason.

After Sunday's raid, Ebadi was taken for a short time to a police station before being released. No one was arrested, she said.

"The collective activities of the human rights activists in Iran have angered the Iranian authorities so much that they have illegally ordered the closing down of two NGOs," she told CNN on Sunday.

Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her human rights work, making her the first Iranian to receive the honor, and the only Iranian national to be awarded a Nobel prize. She is one of the most prominent Muslim women in the world and serves as president of the Defenders of Human Rights Center.

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