Page last updated at 17:51 GMT, Monday, 14 February 2005

Iran asked to give counsel choice

By Frances Harrison
BBC News, Tehran

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi (centre)
Ebadi has been summoned to court on completely unknown charges

Iranian Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi has asked the country's judiciary to guarantee that everyone may have the defence lawyer of their choice.

She said many accused people had wanted her as their lawyer but were instead forced to accept advocates appointed by the government.

Ms Ebadi started taking on the Iranian judiciary after she won the prestigious peace prize in 2003.

She herself is to appear before a court on charges as yet unknown.

Ms Ebadi has long campaigned for reform of the Iranian judiciary. She won the prestigious peace prize in 2003 and has now turned to the issue of ensuring fair trial for all.

Perhaps emboldened by her new international fame, this is a process she says she will continue for as long as she lives.

'Farcical' process

Gathering lawyers and political prisoners recently to talk about the role of a lawyer in a fair trial, many of the stories she raised were Kafka-esque.

One is her own: she has been summoned to court on charges she says even the judge in charge does not know.

One former cleric just released after five years in jail said he felt the whole trial process was a farce because the sentence had already been decided in advance.

The mother of a man sentenced to death said her son had been denied access to his lawyer and kept in solitary confinement for 14 months. He says even a dog would not survive in the conditions he had suffered.

One web-logger recently released from jail said he had been told that his sentence would be five years longer if he insisted on appointing Ms Ebadi as his lawyer.

Human rights lawyers - many of whom have been in jail - said their professional association was unable to protect them.

They complained the judiciary was trying to remove the last vestiges of the organisation's independence with a draft bill that has been kept confidential so far.

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Profile: Shirin Ebadi
27 Nov 09 |  Middle East

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