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US Bans Iranian Nobel Laureate

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    Nobel Laureate Sues U.S. Over Ban http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB109928169783060931,00.html Embargo Blocks Memoirs Of Iranian Rights Activist And Winner of
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 4, 2004
      Nobel Laureate Sues U.S. Over Ban

      Embargo Blocks Memoirs Of Iranian Rights Activist And Winner of
      Peace Prize
      Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
      November 1, 2004; Page A9

      When Shirin Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, President
      Bush congratulated the Iranian lawyer and children's advocate
      for "her lifetime championing human rights and democracy."

      When Ms. Ebadi sought to publish her memoirs in the U.S., she was
      startled to discover that doing so would be illegal, under a trade
      embargo intended to punish repressive governments such as the regime
      in Tehran that once sent her to jail.

      Last week, Ms. Ebadi and her American literary agency, the Strothman
      Agency of Boston, sued the Treasury Department, which enforces the
      sanctions, in Manhattan federal district court. The suit says the
      regulations ignore congressional directives to exempt information
      and creative works from the trade sanctions, and more broadly
      violate the First Amendment rights of Americans to read what they
      wish. The restrictions "seem to defy the values the United States
      promotes throughout the world, which always include free expression
      and the free exchange of ideas," Ms. Ebadi says in an affidavit
      filed with the suit.

      Although the regulations allow the government to grant exceptions to
      the embargo, Ms. Ebadi hasn't applied for one. The suit contends the
      rules for exceptions are too vague and that in any case it is
      unconstitutional to let the government decide whether an author may
      publish in the U.S.

      The Treasury Department declined to comment on Ms. Ebadi's suit, but
      spokeswoman Molly Millerwise defended the regulations as "part of
      the different strategies that make up our national-security
      policies." The U.S. has 29 sanctions programs in place against
      various countries, terrorist groups and others considered national-
      security threats, although the restrictions challenged by Ms. Ebadi
      apply only to Cuba, Iran and Sudan. Ironically, the way the Treasury
      Department interprets the trade embargo, Ms. Ebadi would have been
      free to publish a translation of her book in the U.S. had it
      originally been issued in Iran. The regulations allow publishers
      to "reproduce, translate, style and copy-edit" existing works from
      sanctioned countries, according to a department fact sheet. But they
      prohibit providing "services" to people or entities in embargoed
      countries, such as the type of editorial, marketing and translation
      work needed to publish an original book in the U.S. In a March
      letter to the Treasury Department, Rep. Howard Berman, the
      California Democrat who wrote legislation excepting information from
      the embargo, called the policy "patently absurd."

      Ms. Ebadi, 57 years old, says in her affidavit that she wants to
      write specifically for an American audience, offering them "a
      greater understanding of Iranian society and of the determination of
      one woman to seek justice in a society in which it is difficult for
      women to achieve influence in public affairs."

      "I would not write such a book for publication in Iran right now,"
      she says. "I want it to express my own ideas, not ideas that receive
      official approval." She adds that although she speaks some English,
      she lacks the fluency to write a book in the language and would need
      assistance in translating from her native Farsi. "A book written for
      American readers would be very different from a book written for
      publication in my own country," she says, "and my writing may have
      to be reconstructed, both to answer questions Americans would expect
      to be addressed and to sound comfortable to American ears."

      Such an endeavor would require close collaboration with an agent,
      editor and perhaps a co-writer in the U.S. -- services her attorneys
      advise are prohibited without a government license.

      The lawsuit is the second during recent months to target the
      regulations. In September, the American Association of University
      Presses, of New York, and other organizations filed in Manhattan
      federal court, claiming that publishers had been forced to suspend
      several projects because their authors were nationals of embargoed

      Many of the works impeded by the regulations involve Cuban authors.
      According to the university press association, suspended or
      cancelled publications include a book on Cuban archaeology to be
      published by the University of Alabama Press, a Cornell University
      Press edition of "Field Guide to the Birds of Cuba" and
      an "Encyclopedia of Cuban Music" from Temple University Press. "The
      PEN Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature" also is
      threatened, says the PEN American Center, a writers group currently
      headed by Salman Rushdie, the novelist who was condemned for
      blasphemy by the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
      The PEN center is among the plaintiffs in the September suit, which
      is expected to be heard along with the Ebadi case by District Judge
      Richard Casey.

      Although the trade embargoes trace their origin to World War I's
      Trading with the Enemy Act and the 1977 International Emergency
      Economic Powers Act, the current disputes arise from recent rulings
      by the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which
      administers the sanctions. In September 2003, responding to a
      scholarly society's query about publishing an article by an Iranian
      author, the office said that various tasks involved in publishing an
      original book in the U.S., such as "marketing, distribution,
      artistic, advertising and other services [are] not exempt" from the
      embargo. That raised concerns among publishers who potentially faced
      imprisonment and fines for violating the sanctions, and led to the
      recent lawsuits.

      Write to Jess Bravin at jess.bravin@...1

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