UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations special investigator on Iran is not fazed by a senior official's announcement that he is banned from the country, saying on Monday, "He loves banning me."
Ahmed Shaheed also told reporters he was "shocked" by the execution Saturday of Reyhaneh Jabbari, a woman convicted of murdering a man she said was trying to rape her. He said he had repeatedly raised concerns about the fairness of her trial.
He spoke a day before presenting his report on Iran to the General Assembly's human rights committee, where he is expected to speak out against the country's second-highest rate of executions in the world.
Iran has executed eight juveniles over the past year, he said, and there are indications of rising concerns in Iran's society about the government's approach to capital punishment.
Shaheed, a Muslim from the Maldives, has not been welcomed by Iran. Earlier on Monday, senior Iran judicial official Mohammad Javad Larijani called him a "media actor," accusing him of political motivated reports, and announced that he was banned.
Shaheed said he was not surprised. He said he's never been allowed into Iran and has been banned every year since he was appointed in June 2011. He pointed out that technically Iran has a standing invitation to the U.N.'s special rapporteur, though one hasn't been allowed in since 2005.
"The allegation I take sides is totally unwarranted," he said.
He bases his reports on conversations with dozens of people both inside and outside the country, and it can be dangerous for some who speak with him. Punishments include flogging and, in the worst cases, charges of spreading propaganda against the state.
On the issue of the West's ongoing nuclear talks with Iran, Shaheed did not see the discussions undermining the issue of human rights, and he said he did not sense any change in the U.S. emphasis on human rights in Iran.
Shaheed worried, though, that Iran would use the nuclear issue as a "positive front" while allowing human rights to become a "backwater."
The United States and other countries are concerned that Iran is using its nuclear program to develop atomic weapons, but Iran says its program is for peaceful energy production.