Iran's judiciary has ordered Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, to appear before the hard-line Revolutionary Court for questioning or face arrest. Ebadi has until Sunday to appear before the court. Ebadi's team of lawyers have been involved in several high-profile human rights cases recently, but the reason for her summons is unknown. In an interview with RFE/RL's Radio Farda, Shirin Ebadi, the winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, says she has no idea why she has been called to appear before the Revolutionary Court. She said:
"Two days ago, a summons was delivered to my law office in which it was stated that I have to go to the Revolutionary Court to give explanations, without mentioning if I'm accused or not and what the charges are against me. In the letter, it was stated that if I don't present myself within [three days], they will order my arrest."
Ebadi says the court order contradicts Iranian law:
"Such a summons is not in accordance with criminal law because the law says that if someone commits an offence, he or she must be informed of the allegations against him or her and be summoned to court to present an explanation. This summons from the court -- it does not specify whether I stand accused and, if I am, what my charges are -- stands against our criminal law."
It is unclear how she plans to respond to the court order. Reuters quotes a close colleague of Ebadi's, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, as saying she plans to appear before the court on Saturday.
Ebadi and her team of lawyers at the center have been involved in several high-profile cases, such as that of Zahra Kazemi , a photojournalist with dual Canadian-Iranian citizenship. Kazemi died in 2003 from a blow to the head while in custody in Tehran's notorious Evin prison.
Ebadi has also called for the release of all political prisoners in Iran and for an end to the practice of issuing death sentences for young offenders that are carried out when the prisoner reaches the age of 18.
The U.S. State Department calls the move against Ebadi a violation of international standards of human rights and says it is monitoring the situation.
A State Department official said: "We will continue to follow closely the [Iranian] government's actions against Ms. Ebadi and others, as well as the deteriorating situation in Iran, and will continue to raise this issue and our grave concern over the worsening human rights situation in Iran with friends and allies in the region."
Human rights activists and international organizations defending human rights have also condemned the court order.
Mohammad Seyfzadeh, one of Ebadi's colleagues at the Center of Human Rights Defenders in Tehran, says the court action against Ebadi is causing concern inside Iran, as well:
"Lawyers and human rights activists who have contacted me are very upset. Mrs. Ebadi is working within the framework of legal and human rights issues. So [summoning her to court] means the destruction of freedom of expression, it means disregard for people's expertise. She talks within her expertise."
Seyfzadeh says he believes the summons might be connected with Ebadi's human rights activities.