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Iran denies confiscating activist's Nobel Peace Prize

Iranian judge and activist Shirin Ebadi, pictured here in June, won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize.
Iranian judge and activist Shirin Ebadi, pictured here in June, won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Iran condemns Norwegian allegations, says Ebadi involved in tax issue
  • Shirin Ebadi received prize for focus on human rights, especially women and children
  • The medal and the diploma have been removed from Dr. Ebadi's bank box, say officials
RELATED TOPICS
  • Iran
  • Nobel Peace Prize
  • Norway

(CNN) -- Iran is denying Norway's claim that the Islamic republic confiscated the Nobel Peace Prize of human rights activist Shirin Ebadi, and indicated the issue involved tax evasion.

"It is most surprising to see Norwegian officials jump to conclusions without respecting international regulations and taking enough time to see both sides of the matter," said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast, quoted by Iran's Press TV.

Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency quoted the spokesman as denying Iran confiscated Ebadi's prize. But at the same time, Mehman-Parast was quoted by Press TV as saying "much the same as European countries, tax evasion is a crime in Iran and individuals would face legal penalties should they commit such an act."

Ebadi won 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.3 million) for the prize.There are news reports saying Tehran's Revolutionary Court also froze her bank accounts and is demanding $410,000 in taxes it said was owed on her Nobel Prize money. But IRNA also quoted Mehman-Parast as denying it froze Ebadi's bank account.

While the other Nobel prizes are awarded by committees based in Sweden, the Nobel peace prize is determined by a five-member panel appointed by the Norwegian parliament. Ebadi received the award in 2003.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store said on Thursday in a written statement that "the medal and the diploma have been removed from Dr. Ebadi's bank box, together with other personal items. Such an act leaves us feeling shock and disbelief."

Norway's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a written statement that it "has reacted strongly" and had summoned the Iranian charge d'affaires on Wednesday afternoon to protest the move.

During the meeting with the Iranian charge d'affaires, State Secretary Gary Larsen also expressed "grave concern" about how Ebadi's husband has been allegedly treated.

"Earlier this autumn, he (Ebadi's husband) was arrested in Tehran and severely beaten. His pension has been stopped and his bank account has been frozen," the statement from Norway said.

IRNA also quoted Mehman-Parast as denying it froze Ebadi's bank account.

Store said in the statement that it marked the "first time a Nobel Peace Prize has been confiscated by national authorities."

The peace prize is one of five awarded annually since 1901 by the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, Sweden. The other four prizes are for physiology or medicine, physics, chemistry and literature. Starting in 1969, the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel also has been awarded.

Ebadi received the prize for her focus on human rights, especially on the struggle to improve the status of women and children.

A statement from the Nobel committee at the time said, "As a lawyer, judge, lecturer, writer and activist, she has spoken out clearly and strongly in her country, Iran, and far beyond its borders."

The report cited Mehman-Parast as saying that if Norwegian officials "really cared about human rights," the country wouldn't have abstained on a vote involving the Goldstone Report, a review of Israeli and Hamas actions during the Gaza offensive.

 
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