TEHRAN, Iran – Norway has no right to criticize Iran for confiscating Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi's medal, Iran's foreign ministry said Friday.
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.
Ebadi said Thursday that authorities took the medal about three weeks ago from a safe-deposit box in Iran, claiming she owed taxes on the $1.3 million she was awarded. Ebadi says that such prizes are exempt from tax under Iranian law.
Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, said Friday that Norway has no right to criticize Iran for enforcing its tax laws.
He said Norwegian officials are trying to "justify ignorance and avoidance" of paying tax.
Ebadi, a human rights lawyer, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 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.
The seizure of her prize is an expression of the Iranian government's harsh approach to anyone it considers an opponent — particularly since the massive street protests triggered by hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed June 12 re-election.