Reuters: Iranian police on Sunday raided and closed the office of a watchdog group led by Iran's Nobel peace prize winner Shirin Ebadi ahead of a celebration to mark International Human Rights Day.
By Parisa Hafezi
TEHRAN, Dec 21 (Reuters) – Iranian police on Sunday raided and closed the office of a watchdog group led by Iran's Nobel peace prize winner Shirin Ebadi ahead of a celebration to mark International Human Rights Day.
Iran's judiciary confirmed the closure of the Human Rights Defenders Centre, saying it was involved in "illegal" activities.
"Tehran prosecutor ordered the closure of the office of Human Rights Defenders Centre because of its illegal activities," the semi-official Mehr news agency reported.
"The centre was acting as a (political) party without having legal permit. It had illegal contacts with local and foreign organizations. It had organised news conferences and seminars."
Ebadi, winner of the 2003 Nobel peace prize, criticised the raid, saying it will not stop human rights activists in Iran.
"The closure of the office without providing a legal warrant is illegal. We will protest against it," Ebadi told Reuters. "It will not deprive us from our rights activities."
Narges Mohammadi, deputy head of the centre, said that dozens of policemen, including plainclothes security agents, entered the office without showing a search warrant.
"A policeman said he was not obliged to show a warrant because he was wearing a police uniform," Mohammadi told Reuters.
The raid came hours before the centre was to hold a celebration of the 60th anniversary of Human Rights Day, which fell on Dec. 10, Mohammadi said.
Ebadi used a United Nations forum in Geneva on Wednesday to condemn hardliners in power in some Muslim countries and rulers of the world's last communist states as abusers of human rights.
Ebadi, an outspoken critic of the Islamic Republic's rights record, said Muslim dictatorships used religion to underpin their own power.
The Iranian rights advocate has repeatedly criticised Iran's human rights record, citing what she says was a rising number of political prisoners and the highest number of executions per capita in the world last year.
Over the years, Ebadi's advocacy of human rights has earned her a spell in jail and a stream of threatening letters and telephone calls.
Iran's government rejects accusations that it violates human rights and accuses its Western foes of hypocrisy and double standards. (Reporting by Parisa Hafezi, Editing by Sami Aboudi)