Nobel prize winner calls for release of Iranian political prisoners
PARIS (AFP) Oct 10, 2003
Iranian lawyer and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi called Friday for the release of political prisoners in Iran, just hours after being awarded the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize.

"Today many people who fight for liberty and democracy (in Iran) are in prison. I hope for their release as soon as possible," she told a news conference in Paris.

"I call on the Iranian government to respect human rights and I hope in the future things will move positively ... What is most urgent is respect for freedom of expression and the release of prisoners of conscience," she said.

Ebadi, 56, is one of Iran's most prominent human rights defenders, and her campaigning on behalf of women, children and outspoken dissidents has earned her the wrath of the Islamic republic's religious hardliners.

She is the 11th woman to win the coveted Nobel peace prize and the first ever Muslim woman.

Ebadi also defended her religion -- Islam -- against charges that it is incompatible with the western concept of human rights, and came out against any foreign intervention in her country.

"Islam is not incompatible with human rights and all Muslims should be glad of this prize. If you read the Koran you will see there is nothing in it that is against human rights.

"For 20 years I have been putting out the message that it is possible to be Muslim and have laws that respect human rights," she said.

"The fight for human rights is conducted in Iran by the Iranian people and we are against any foreign intervention in Iran," she said.

"It is not easy to be a woman in Iran because of Iranian law. But the beauty of life in Iran is to fight in difficult circumstances as a woman and as a jurist. If I lived in another country I would not be as proud as I am today," she said.

"The prize gives me more energy to continue the fight for a better future .... This day does not belong to me, but to all militants for human rights in the world," she said.