Tehran: Iran has confiscated human right activist Shirin Ebadi's Nobel Peace Prize medal and frozen her bank accounts to pressure the critic of the Islamic regime, her colleagues said on Friday.
Iranian authorities seized the medal and diploma that Ebadi kept in a bank box, drawing condemnation from Norway, which awarded the prize in 2003.
"Her prize money was deposited in a bank account and it was used to help prisoners of conscience and their families," a founding member of Ebadi's human rights group, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, said.
"The account has been blocked by the officials and they do not allow withdrawals," the lawyer said.
"This is illegal as blocking and confiscation should be the decision of a court where evidence is presented for such an act," he said. "It is politicised."
Ebadi left Iran shortly before the June 12 Presidential Election, which saw Mahmoud Ahmadinejad returned to office amid allegations of widespread fraud.
Since then Ebadi has been urging the international community to act against Iranian authorities' human rights "abuses" in the aftermath of the election.
Thousands were initially arrested as mass protests broke out against Ahmadinejad's re-election and dozens were killed in clashes with security forces.
The authorities have also blocked the bank account of Ebadi's husband, Javad Tavassolian, Mohammad Seifzadeh, another member of Ebadi's Human Rights Defenders Centre said, adding that the group had learned about the freeze about 10 days ago.
Iran is also demanding about USD 400,000 in taxes on Ebadi's prize money, which amounted to USD 1.3 million, her colleagues said, while arguing that under Iranian law it could not be taxed.
Seifzadeh saw the move as aimed at "pressuring Ebadi, so that she will be banned from leaving Iran under the pretext of tax evasion whenever she returns."
"It appears that Ahmadinejad's government is bound to increase pressure on dissent to a point that no independent and lawful criticism on human rights can be heard," he said.
Both men, who formed the Human Rights Defenders Centre with Ebadi a decade ago, insisted that the Nobel winner will return to Iran.
The group has faced mounting pressure since its offices were shut down in a police raid in December 2008.
Two of its members including Dadkhah were jailed for several weeks after the June election and others have been banned from travelling abroad.
First Published: Friday, November 27, 2009, 16:27