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Iran Seizes Shirin Ebadi's Nobel Prize Medal

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Iran Seizes Shirin Ebadi's Nobel Prize Medal

Middle East

Iran Seizes Shirin Ebadi's Nobel Prize Medal

Iran Seizes Shirin Ebadi's Nobel Prize Medal

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Officials in Norway say authorities in Iran have confiscated the medal of 2003 Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi. That's a first in the history of the prize. Borzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times talks with Steve Inskeep about the missing medal which was kept in a safe deposit box.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

We have news, this morning, about something involving a Nobel Prize that has never happened in more than a century of Nobel prizes being awarded around the world. Iranian authorities went to a safe deposit box belonging to Shirin Ebadi. She's the woman who won the Nobel Peace price in 2003 for promoting democracy.

Authorities went to that safe deposit box and they confiscated the medal that is awarded with the prize. We're going to talk about this with Borzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times. He follows Iran from his post in Beirut, Lebanon since being escorted out of the country.

Borzou, welcome back to the program.

Mr. BORZOU DARAGAHI (Reporter, Los Angeles Times): Thank you so much.

INSKEEP: What do you know about this incident?

MR. DARAGAHI: Well, according to the Norwegian Foreign Ministry - which is really the agency that has publicized this incident - a couple of weeks ago, apparently, security forces in Iran - unnamed authorities - apparently broke into Shirin Ebadi's safe deposit box and took a bunch of personal items, including the Nobel Peace Prize medal and certificate that she had in there.

This is something that totally outraged the Norwegian authorities. Shirin Ebadi has been under pressure, ever since, really, she won this prize - has been continually harassed and intimidated by Iranian authorities. But never before has a Norwegian spoken out so much about this type of harassment as with this incident.

INSKEEP: Any sense of why the Iranian authorities would take this step now?

MR. DARAGAHI: Well, we're not exactly certain what they were thinking. I think it indicates a certain tone deafness on the part of Iranian authorities about how their actions are viewed, internationally.

But let it be said that they have be complaining about Shirin Ebadi for years. She really irks them. It's not exactly clear why.

But based on the conversations that I've had with Iranian officials and diplomats and articles that I read, it seems like they don't really appreciate the fact that she has this independent power base, that she has a lot of international credibility, that when she makes a statement international news organizations carry the statement. And so, they really describe her in the nastiest of terms.

I cannot repeat some of the things that Iranian officials and Iranian analysts have said, publicly, about her in recent years.

INSKEEP: Well, of course, when she was awarded that Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, it was seen as something that would give her more influence or even more protection as she argued for changes in a country that was resisting change.

MR. DARAGAHI: Well, and indeed when she was awarded that prize, it was still under the relatively moderate presidency of Mohammed Khatami, a different era. The times were changing, towards the ascendancy of the hardliners which you have now. But it was a different climate, and things have steadily gotten worse for people like Shirin Ebadi since that time.

INSKEEP: And we should mention also, there are a number of people who protested against Iran's government after a disputed election in June, who now face death sentences from this same government.

MR. DARAGAHI: Indeed. They're facing very, very stiff penalties. Probably they will not be executed, but some people have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms, and some have been sentenced to death. These people need legal representation, which people like Shirin Ebadi provide.

INSKEEP: Borzou, thanks very much.

Borzou Daragahi is the Los Angeles Times correspondent in Beirut.

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