Tehran (AsiaNews/HRW) - There is concern after Iranian police yesterday stormed and closed the office of the Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC), created by 2003 Nobel peace prize winner Shirin Ebadi. The group Human Rights Watch speaks of an attempt to reduce to silence anyone in the country who tries to defend human rights, and is calling for the immediate reopening of the center and an investigation of those responsible for the action.
The DHRC, founded in 2000 by Ebadi and other pro-rights activists, had invited more than 300 activists to gather on December 21 for a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the UN declaration of human rights.
Narges Mohammadi, spokesperson of the DHRC, says that when she arrived at about three o'clock in the afternoon, she found dozens of policemen who blocked access, filmed Ebadi and the others present, and finally locked the entrance. She says that police officials have refused to show any search warrant. Cameras were confiscated from journalists, and Hadi Esmailzadeh, a member of the DHRC, was beaten.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of HRW, observes that this is an action not only against Shirin Ebadi and the DHRC, but against the entire worldwide human rights community, partly intended to show citizens of the whole country that Tehran has "zero tolerance" for anyone who defends human rights.
Now it is feared that some DHRC activists have been arrested, since - HRW recalls - Iran has carried out arbitrary arrests on the basis of flimsy accusations in conjunction with similar raids in the past. For example, Mohammad Sadiq Kaboudvand, founder of the Kurdistan Human Rights Organization, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for his activity.