Page last updated at 14:49 GMT, Tuesday, 18 January 2005

Iran admits Ebadi summons 'error'

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi (centre)
Ebadi defied the summons to "explain her activities"

Iran's hard-line judiciary has made a rare admission of error over a case involving Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi.

Last week, Mrs Ebadi defied an order to appear before a Revolutionary Court to explain her activities, or face arrest.

A spokesman now says the court should not have handled the human rights lawyer's case, as it did not involve national security.

She was accused by a private citizen of insulting him, spokesman Jamal Karimirad added.

Set up after the Islamic revolution in 1979, the Revolutionary Court has jailed many political prisoners for offences against national security.

Mrs Ebadi said she hoped other legal cases would be rectified with the same speed and attention in future.

"This was not a personal issue, it covers many cases," Mrs Ebadi said in an interview with Reuters news agency.

"As a human rights lawyer, I have fulfilled my duty to fight against illegalities."

In October 2003, she became the first Muslim woman and first Iranian to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

'Clerical mistake'

Mr Karimirad said human errors by a court clerk were to blame, including not specifying the charges against Mrs Ebadi in the summons.

"According to the law, the reason for the summons should be clarified," he told a news conference.

Mr Karimirad also rejected a call by Mrs Ebadi to abolish solitary confinement imposed on political prisoners.

Mr Karimirad said there were no longer any solitary confinement cells in Iran following an order by the head of the judiciary in 2004.

But he added that "comfortable suites" had been built "to keep some accused people separate from each other for a limited time".

At a news conference on Monday, former prisoners including Mrs Ebadi spoke of being kept alone in tiny, hot cells with dirty blankets, exposed to continuous light or darkness - in some cases for many months at a stretch.

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