TEHRAN, (Reuters) – Iran’s judiciary said on Wednesday the closure of a watchdog group’s office led by Iran’s Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi was a temporary measure.
Iranian police raided and closed the office of the Human Rights Defenders Centre on Sunday, shortly before the group was due to hold a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which fell on Dec. 10.
The French presidency of the European Union condemned Iran on Monday for closing the office and called on Tehran to reopen it. The United States also condemned the move.
The judiciary, in a statement faxed to Reuters, said the office could be reopened “if the group obtained the necessary legal permit” for its activities. The judiciary had said the group was acting as a (political) party without having a permit. “The office of the Human Rights Defenders Centre has been closed temporarily for not having a legal permit (for its activities) from the Interior Ministry,” the statement quoted senior judiciary official Alireza Qasemi as saying.
“Naturally when they obtain the permit and respect the law, the office can be reopened and resume its activities.”
Ebadi, winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, had criticised the raid, saying it would not stop human rights activists in Iran.
Narges Mohammadi, deputy head of the centre, said it had been legally registered.
“We have the permission but the Interior Ministry refuses to hand over legal documents to us,” she told Reuters. “Our activities are legal and we will never abandon our rights activities.”
Ebadi 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.