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Sweden, Norway Slam Iran For Threats Against Nobel Winner Shirin Ebadi

LOUISE NORDSTROM   12/10/09 10:37 AM ET   AP

Belgium Eu Iran

STOCKHOLM — Scandinavian officials said Thursday that the Nobel Peace Prize medal and diploma confiscated by Iran from laureate Shirin Ebadi have been returned, but that her situation remains a "serious concern."

The Islamic Republic confiscated the Iranian human rights lawyer's 2003 Nobel medal and diploma last month, but the ministers said she now has them again. They did not give any details.

"The medal and diploma have now been restored to her, but her situation continues to be serious," Sweden's Carl Bildt and Norway's Jonas Gahr Stoere said in the joint statement that come on the day of the annual Nobel Award ceremonies in Stockholm and Oslo.

Iranian embassy officials in Stockholm could not immediately be reached for comment.

The confiscation, which according to Ebadi came on the orders of Tehran's Revolutionary Court, has caused a diplomatic rift between the Islamic Republic and Norway.

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, and lodged a complaint with Tehran. Iran in turn summoned Norway's ambassador, saying the Nordic country had no right to criticize it.

Ebadi, the first Muslim woman to be awarded the peace prize and the first female judge in Iran, won the prize 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.

"We react very strongly to the treatment to which Shirin Ebadi has been subjected," the ministers said, noting she has been prevented from carrying out her work in the country and that authorities have also closed down the Defenders of Human Rights Centre, which she co-founded.

"The confiscation of the medal and the numerous threats directed at her, her family and her colleagues give cause for great concern and are yet another example of the worsened human rights situation in Iran since the election in June this year," the ministers said.

They also urged Iran to allow Ebadi to safely return to her home country.

Ebadi has criticized the Iranian government's crackdown on the demonstrations that followed June elections. She left the country a day before the vote to attend a conference in Spain and has not returned since.

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Filed by Adam Taylor  |