Iran's Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi Thursday condemned what she called a smear campaign against her daughter by an official news agency.
The official news agency IRNA quoted an unnamed source as saying Ebadi's daughter last year converted to the illegal Bahai religion.
Unlike Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism, Bahaism, which was founded in 19th-century Persia, is not recognized or allowed to be practiced in Iran, dpa reported.
Religious conversion in Iran, especially to the Bahai faith, is regarded not only a big sin but also a capital crime and offenders, in line with Islamic laws, could face the death sentence.
Ebadi told the Tehran daily Kargozaran that she and her daughter were proud to be Shiite Moslems and defending Bahais in court had nothing to do with their religious faith.
Ebadi, her daughter and a legal team are defending seven Bahais who were recently arrested for allegedly having contacts with Iran's arch-foe Israel.
Last January 54 Bahais were arrested in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz on charges of spreading propaganda against the Islamic system.
Three of them were sentenced to four-year jail terms and the others received a suspended sentence of one year.
Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for promoting human rights and democracy in Iran. She was the first Muslim woman to receive the honour.
The 60-year-old lawyer frequently champions cases related to dissidents, women activists and religious minorities.