Iran summons Norway envoy over Nobel row

Iran summons Norway envoy over Nobel row

Iran summoned Norway's ambassador on Friday over accusations made by Oslo that Iranian authorities had confiscated the Nobel Peace Prize medal awarded to human rights campaigner Shirin Ebadi in 2003, Al arabiya website reported.

"We are surprised to see Norwegian authorities taking a tendentious stance and in a hasty attitude ignoring laws and rules which are respected by everyone," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, in comments carried by the semi-official Mehr news agency.

" We are surprised to see Norwegian authorities taking a tendentious stance and in a hasty attitude ignoring laws and rules which are respected by everyone "
Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast

Norway's Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that Ebadi's gold Nobel medal and her award diploma had been removed from her bank box, together with other personal items, and summoned Iran's charge d'affaires in protest.

A Norwegian committee picks the Nobel peace laureates, while the other Nobel prize winners are chosen in Sweden.

While not explicitly denying it had taken the medal, Mehmanparast suggested Ebadi owed taxes on the $1.3 million prize money also awarded by Nobel.

"During the meeting, Foreign Ministry officials expressed surprise and dismay at Oslo's support for Ebadi's violation of the country's tax laws," ISNA reported.

Ebadi has accused the Islamic republic of acting illegally by freezing her assets and questioned the timing of its demand she pay substantial back taxes.

She won the Nobel prize for her campaign for democracy and human rights in Iran and has been an outspoken critic of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose re-election in June sparked mass opposition protests.

"The confiscation of these properties is in breach of the law of the Islamic republic and I made a complaint against the judge who has ordered this confiscation," Ebadi said, speaking through a translator.

She claimed that the officials who seized the bank accounts "have nothing to do with the finance ministry, they were from the Revolutionary Court."

Under Iranian law, the Nobel prize money is not liable for tax, she claimed.

"The peace prize was won six years ago and over this period of time there has never been a claim from the government for the tax. The claim was made just after the election," Ebadi said.

" There is no mistake or error, they have confiscated or blocked all the personal accounts "
Shirin Ebadi

"I have received documents from the finance ministry asking me for $410,000 in tax. I have protested against the amount, but I haven't had a response so far."

Ebadi, 62, dismissed suggestions that Iranian officials had inadvertently taken the Nobel medal while they were confiscating documents relating to her assets.

"There is no mistake or error, they have confiscated or blocked all the personal accounts," she said.

"My husband had a safe box... in Tejarat bank in Tehran and they have blocked and confiscated the contents of the safe.

"The Nobel medal and the Legion d'Honneur prize were in that safe box and they have been taken."

Ebadi left Iran on the eve of the presidential election to attend a three-day conference in Spain, and has not returned since, but said she intended to go home in the near future.

She said her husband was being prevented from leaving the country, even though "he has nothing to do with politics. He is only involved in business."

In London, Ebadi said she feared the West could be tempted to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses in return for Iran's cooperation on its disputed nuclear program.

"The issue of human rights is a universal concept. So I hope that the nuclear issues don't prevent people from looking at the human rights situation."

The stand-off between Iran and the West intensified on Friday when the United Nations nuclear watchdog censured Tehran and demanded it immediately halt construction of a newly-revealed uranium enrichment plant.

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