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Malaysia blocks Iran Nobel winner

Shirin Ebadi (file pic)
Shirin Ebadi is one of Iran's first female judges

A Malaysian university has cancelled a scheduled speech by the Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi.

Ms Ebadi, an outspoken human rights lawyer, had been due to speak at the University of Malaya early in November.

Foreign ministry officials admitted that they had advised the university to withdraw Ms Ebadi's invitation.

Ms Ebadi, who won the peace prize in 2003, has often found herself at odds with the Iranian government over her human rights work.

'Big implications'

Ms Ebadi had been due to deliver the speech entitled Islam and Cultural Diversity on 3 November.

But an official told the Associated Press news agency that the foreign ministry had sent a letter "strongly advising" the organisers not to go ahead with the speech.

"We were told there would be big implications for bilateral relations," the unnamed official said, adding that Iranian diplomats were "pushing for Malaysia to call it off".

The university's vice-chancellor, Rafiah Salim, told the French news agency AFP that the decision was made "out of respect for our Iranian students, who were not very happy".

The speech was supposed to begin a series of talks in Malaysia and Thailand over the next few months.

Other speakers include fellow Nobel laureate President Jose-Ramos Horta of East Timor and American activist Jesse Jackson.

In her capacity as a lawyer, Ms Ebadi has defended many people accused of political and security crimes in Iran, and campaigned for greater rights for women and children.

She has faced numerous death threats and hostility in the Iranian media, and the government banned her Centre for Protecting Human Rights in 2006.

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