PARIS/LONDON - Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi said she first had doubts about the 1979 Islamic Revolution when members of the Shah's regime were executed on the rooftop of a school housing its leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
She has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of Iran's clerical leadership, 40 years after Khomeini returned from exile in Paris on a special Air France flight to ecstatic crowds on Feb. 1, 1979.
But as Iran commemorates the rise of Khomeini, who won the support of millions opposed to the U.S.-backed Shah's lavish lifestyle and ruthless secret police, her criticisms of its current rulers are compounded by frustrations about U.S. policy.
U.S. sanctions designed to undermine Iran's ruling theocracy have only hurt ordinary Iranians who face widespread hardships, said Ebadi, a human rights lawyer and former judge who has been living in exile in Britain since 2009.
"The economic sanctions are not to the benefit of the people. They make the people poor," she told Reuters.
"However, those who are close to the regime benefit from economic sanctions because it gives them the opportunity to gain dirty money. So it's good for them."