Iran Human RightsNobel woman defies Iranian court to denounce torture

Nobel woman defies Iranian court to denounce torture

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The Times: Shirin Ebadi, Iran’s Nobel peace prizewinner who has defied a summons to appear before the feared Revolutionary Court, yesterday called on her country’s authorities to ban the use of solitary confinement. The practice amounted to torture and was a tool of unpopular governments, she told a rare conference where several former prisoners gave accounts of their experiences in solitary confinement. The Times

By Michael Theodoulou

SHIRIN EBADI, Iran’s Nobel peace prizewinner who has defied a summons to appear before the feared Revolutionary Court, yesterday called on her country’s authorities to ban the use of solitary confinement.

The practice amounted to torture and was a tool of unpopular governments, she told a rare conference where several former prisoners gave accounts of their experiences in solitary confinement.

Her snub was an open challenge to a powerful body that has tried and convicted many pro-reform intellectuals.

Ms Ebadi, 57, a human rights lawyer, described her own summons as “illegal” because it did not specify any charges and because under Iranian law only political and national security cases were referred to that court.

Analysts had linked the summons to an attempt by the hardline Muslim clerics, who control the judiciary, to muzzle dissent before presidential elections scheduled for mid-June. But the old guard’s muscle-flexing appears to have backfired.

Ms Ebadi was more vocal than ever, while her profile has been raised at home and abroad.

“I am calling on judiciary officials to issue a stern order banning the use of solitary confinement,” she said. The practice was widespread, especially for political dissidents, despite judicial orders for it to be halted.

“Why should the ones who say ‘long live democracy’ be tortured?” she asked. “Is seeking democracy and freedom a crime?”

Ms Ebadi, the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel peace prize, spent 25 days in solitary confinement in 2000 as a result of one of her cases.

A three-day deadline for Ms Ebadi to present herself in court expired on Sunday when she declared that she was ready to face arrest. The organisation Human Rights Watch had strongly criticised the move.

“This is a blatant attempt by the Iranian Government to silence one of the few remaining voices for human rights in Iran,” Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of the group’s Middle East and North Africa Division, said.

“If even a Nobel peace prizewinner can be threatened, then no activist is safe.”

On Friday the US State Department expressed “grave concern” about Ms Ebadi’s case.

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