Page last updated at 12:15 GMT, Monday, 25 April 2005 13:15 UK

Ebadi anger at women election ban

By Frances Harrison
BBC News, Tehran

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi
Ebadi said everyone had the right to stand for election

Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi's human rights group has criticised the fact that women will not be allowed to run in Iran's June presidential elections.

She objected to the interpretation of the constitution that prevents women from standing for the presidency.

Members of her Defenders of Human Rights Centre slammed the role of the unelected Guardian Council which can bar candidates on religious grounds.

The Council barred 2,000 candidates in last year's parliamentary elections.

Ms Ebadi said everyone should have the right to stand in the forthcoming elections.

'Violating laws'

At a news conference organised by Ms Ebadi, Ibrahim Yazdi of the National Freedom Party said that with the Guardian Council in place there could not be free elections.

"This Guardian Council must resign because they have lost their qualifications," he said.

"One of the qualifications is to be just. When they have violated the election law and violated a constitutional law, they have violated the basic teaching of Islam [and] are no longer qualified to do the job. So the first step is to remove them.

"If they resign... then we may be able to tell people that a new page is turning [and] we may convince them to come forward and participate," he added.

Last chance

Mr Yazdi has himself been repeatedly disqualified from standing for elections on the grounds that his party is not legal.

One speaker at the conference urged voters to abstain from taking part as a sign of protest.

Another said this election was the last chance for the Islamic system to reform itself.

Many said the turnout would be critical, because low participation would be a poor public endorsement of Iran's style of Islamic democracy.

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