TEHRAN, Iran — Iran summoned Norway's ambassador Friday and said the country had no right to criticize the Islamic Republic for confiscating Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi's medal.
In Norway, where the peace prize is awarded, the government said the confiscation of the gold medal was a shocking first in the history of the 108-year-old prize.
Ebadi said Thursday that authorities took the medal about three weeks ago from a safe-deposit box in Iran, claiming she owed taxes on the $1.3 million she was awarded. Ebadi says that such prizes are exempt from tax under Iranian law.
Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, said Friday that Norway has no right to criticize Iran for enforcing its tax laws. He said Norwegian officials are trying to "justify ignorance and avoidance" of paying tax.
Iran's official news agency IRNA said authorities had summoned the Norwegian ambassador in response to the "interventionist stance" by Norway's foreign minister, Jonas Gahr Stoere, "in support of Ebadi's illegal activities."
Earlier, Stoere called Iran's move "shocking" and said it was "the first time a Nobel Peace Prize has been confiscated by national authorities."
Iran's decision to summon the Norwegian ambassador came two days after Norway's Foreign Ministry summoned Iran's charge d'affaires in Norway to protest the confiscation.
On Friday, the French Foreign Ministry called on Iran to return the medal "without delay." Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said the Nobel medal and diploma "consecrate the courageous combat by Shirin Ebadi, notably in favor of Iranian civil society."
Ebadi, a human rights lawyer, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts in promoting democracy. She has long faced harassment from Iranian authorities for her activities – including threats against her relatives and a raid on her office last year in which files were confiscated.
The seizure of her prize is an expression of the Iranian government's harsh approach to anyone it considers an opponent – particularly since the massive street protests triggered by hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed June 12 re-election.