TEHRAN (AFP) – The ex-secretary of Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi’s office was arrested for links with an organization of the banned Bahai faith, the Fars news agency reported on Friday.
“Jinous Sobhani, a Bahai who was the secretary of the Human Rights Defenders Centre until its closure, was arrested on Wednesday,” said Fars, which is close to Iranian conservatives.
“Her accusations are said to be forming an organization of Bahaism in Iran and membership of that,” it added.
Confirming the arrest, Ebadi told AFP on Thursday that she saw it as a move to “exert pressure on the Human Rights Defenders Centre”, a rights group headed by the Nobel winner, whose office was shut down in a police raid on December 21.
The Bahai faith was founded in Iran in 1863 but is not recognised by the government. Its followers are regarded as infidels and have suffered persecution both before and after the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Ebadi, who won the Nobel peace prize in 2003, was in the office during the raid, which came as the group was to hold a belated ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the United Nations declaration on human rights.
Founded by five prominent lawyers, the group is a vocal critic of the human rights situation in Iran and has defended scores of prisoners of conscience, including high-profile dissidents and student activists.