Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Iran's Nobel Peace laureate condemns election processPublished: January 14, 2008
MADRID (AFP) Iranian Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi hit out Monday at her country's electoral process, saying it could not be free while candidates had to be approved by the government's hardline vetting body.
"In previous elections, we saw that many people were not approved to take part because they had criticized the government," she told a news conference in Madrid.
Candidates have until Friday to register for Iran's March 14 elections to choose the eighth parliament in the history of the Islamic republic.
But in order to be eligible, the law says candidates must be approved by the Guardians Council, which has the right to disqualify any entrant deemed insufficiently supportive of Iran's Islamic system.
"As long as we have this law, we will not have free elections in Iran," she said.
The 2003 Nobel laureate, a lawyer and human rights activist, said she would not vote, but fell short of calling for a boycott.
"I am not advising the people what they should do (in the elections). I think people should do what is right for them."
She again spoke out against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's nuclear policy, saying he must obey UN resolutions on the issue "to gain the confidence of the world order."
The United States says Iran is using its nuclear drive as a cover for efforts to build an atomic bomb, but Tehran denies the charges, saying its programme is aimed at generating energy for its growing population.
Ebadi said she is convinced Tehran "intends to suspend the process."
But she also reiterated her opposition to economic sanctions against her country.
"I am against economic sanctions, because it makes people suffer," she said. "What I really promote are political sanctions, not economic sanctions.
"I think countries can decide on bringing down the level of political action on Iran. For example, they can ask the ambassadors to go back."
Ebadi, 60, was in the Spanish capital to attend the first Alliance of Civilizations Forum, a Spanish initiative aimed at bridging the divide between peoples of different cultures in the wake of the September 11 attacks in the United States and the March 2004 Madrid train bombings.
She praised the two-day UN forum, which starts Tuesday, as a "good response to the clashes between civilizations.
"After hearing the debates and the dialogue, we will realise there is no clash between civilizations. Civilizations do actually have many points in common. We should start from those common points that we have."
Ebadi runs a group that supports human and minority rights in Iran.
In 1974, she emerged as the country's first female judge, but after the 1979 Islamic revolution, the government decided that women were unfit to serve as judges. So, she chose to become a lawyer and devoted herself to human rights, women and children.