Nobel Peace Laureate Wins Relief from U.S. Embargo
Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP
The U.S. Treasury Department recently revised regulations that required government licenses for the publication of books and other materials by citizens of embargoed nations. As argued in court papers filed by Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP, such a law had the effect of exerting an unconstitutional prior restraint on the publishing activities of Mayer Brown's client, the celebrated human rights activist Shirin Ebadi, 2003 Nobel Peace laureate and an Iranian national.
Ms Ebadi and her literary agency, The Strothman Agency LLC of Boston, also represented by Mayer Brown and, separately, PEN American Center and Arcade Publishing, filed lawsuits that successfully pressured the government to change its regulations.
Informational Materials Exempted
"We are very pleased that the U.S. Treasury Department has revised its regulations," said Wendy J. Strothman, founder of The Strothman Agency, following the December decision.
"Now American readers can hear directly from Shirin Ebadi, an eloquent fighter for human rights, and from other writers living in embargoed countries." The legal challenges to the regulations from Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets and Control were filed in October and November 2004 in U.S. District Court in New York. They sought to force OFAC to abide by the intent of Congress, which clearly exempted "information and informational" materials from any type of regulation.
Shirin Ebadi and The Strothman Agency were represented by senior counsel Philip Allen Lacovara. "Our lawsuit achieved what we set out to accomplish," said Philip. "The Treasury Department, facing the prospect of a federal court decision striking down its restrictive policy as unconstitutional, has reopened the channels of communication between citizens of Iran and Cuba and the American people."
In April, following the government's agreement to change the offending regulation, the litigation with the U.S. government brought by Ms. Ebadi and Ms. Strothman was settled. As a direct result of the lawsuit and its change in U.S. policy, Ms. Ebadi has been able to enter into a contract with Random House to write and publish her memoirs here. "She is hard at work on the book," said Philip. Our team also included Anthony Diana, Ryan Farley, Evan Cruetz, Matthew Carrico, and Deborah Wolmark.
|Shirin Ebadi, seen at her office in Tehran, Iran, answers questions from an|
Associated Press reporter on 15 January 2005. (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)
Speaking Engagements Permitted
In a related action, the U.S. government confirmed that Ms. Ebadi and her U.S. representative, the Strothman Agency LLC, may work together in arranging speaking engagements for Ms. Ebadi's visit to the United States.
Simeon M. Kriesberg and Carol J. Bilzi of our Washington office represented Ms. Ebadi and the Strothman Agency before OFAC, which is responsible for administering the U.S. embargo against Iran.
Our lawyers contended that the Strothman Agency need not seek a specific license for representing Ms. Ebadi in the arrangement of speaking engagements, because these activities are exempted by OFAC regulations providing a general license for participation in public conferences and similar events. In a two-page letter, OFAC Director Robert Werner agreed, noting "Strothman's provision of services to Ms. Ebadi to facilitate her speaking engagements in the United States is permitted without the need for further authorization from this office."
Visit to Mayer, Brown's New York Office
In advance of the publication of her memoirs, Ms. Ebadi has been in the United States since early May speaking at numerous prestigious universities and visiting with people throughout the country. On June 2, Ms. Ebadi visited our New York office to meet in person with the lawyers who represented her in the lawsuit against the U.S. government.
|Iranian activist Shirin Ebadi, right, receives the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize during a ceremony in Oslo's City Hall from chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Ole Danbolt Mjos. Ebadi accepted the prize on behalf of her fellow Iranians, Muslim women everywhere and those who struggle for human rights.|
(AP Photo/John McConnico)
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