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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 June 2007, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Iran censorship 'getting worse'
Shirin Ebadi
Ms Ebadi says she has not been allowed to see her client
Iranian Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi has said censorship in her country is getting much worse.

Ms Ebadi, a human rights lawyer, said the government was trying to prevent information about what is happening there reaching the outside world.

The recent arrest of four Iranian-Americans for spying was part of that trend, she told the BBC.

Ms Ebadi said she was being prevented from representing one of those detained, academic Haleh Esfandiari.

She said Mrs Esfandiari had requested representation in a phone call, but Iran's judiciary denied it.

She said has not been allowed to see her client, who is being held in solitary confinement, and has not been given details of the case.

"On the basis of Iranian law, none can accuse anyone else before he or she appears in court," Ms Ebadi told the BBC.

She added that the ministry of intelligence's repeated description of her client as a spy was "absolutely illegal".

National sovereignty

Ms Ebadi said the government's attitude to foreigners was also deteriorating.

"Censorship has got much worse recently... Iran's government doesn't like its domestic affairs and events inside the country to be reflected in the outside world," Ms Ebadi said.

When governments are threatened... they suppress freedom-loving figures
Shirin Ebadi

Ms Ebadi also criticised the West, saying talk of military strikes on Iran had given Teheran an excuse to suppress its people on the grounds of national defence.

"Usually when governments are threatened by foreign forces, they suppress freedom-loving figures by pretending to defend national sovereignty," she said.

"And this is true in Iran now."

Ms Esfandiari is director of the Middle East programme at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Also being detained are Kian Tajbakhsh, an urban planning consultant with the Open Society Institute and Ali Shakeri, a founding board member of the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding at the University of California in Irvine.

Parnaz Azima, a journalist who works for the US-funded Radio Farda, has been released but prevented from leaving the country.

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