The government of Iran has banned the human rights group Defenders of Human Rights Center led by Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi.
On Saturday, the Iranian newspaper Shargh reported an Interior Ministry statement announcing the ban, "As the group calling itself 'Defenders of Human Rights Center' has not obtained a permit from the interior ministry, its activities are illegal and the violators of this decision will be prosecuted,".
Ebadi told reporters that such a permit was not required, "Non-governmental organizations that observe the law and do not disrupt public safety do not need a permit. So the... Center does not need authorization".
She said that the group had applied for the permit but the Interior Ministry denied the request without any explanation.
Saying that the "move is not in Iran's national interest", Ebadi said that the group will protest against the decision and explore legal options to "obtain our rights".
The group was started by six prominent lawyers and has campaigned on human and minority rights issues for the past four years. It has criticized Iran's judiciary for violations of human rights.
Abdolfattah Soltani, a member of the group was sentenced last month to five years in jail on charges of disclosing confidential information and opposing the regime. He had represented the imprisoned journalist Akbar Ganji as well as the family of the Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi, who was killed in custody in 2003.
The group demanded an independent probe into the death of dissident student activist Akbar Mohammadi, who died in prison on Sunday following a hunger strike.
The ban comes on the 100th anniversary of Iran's "constitutional revolution" of August 5, 1906, when the monarch of what was then Persia decreed the creation of a constitution and an elected parliament - the Majlis.
"The ban has a bad meaning for the country" on such a day, said Mohammad Dadkhah, a founder of the rights group.
Ebadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, for "her efforts for democracy and human rights...especially on the struggle for the rights of women and children,". She was the first Iranian and first Muslim woman to receive the honour.