Campaign to free Iranian lawyer marks human rights day

Human rights campaigners are calling for the release of lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh who is in prison in Iran because of her work.

Sotoudeh was sent to prison for six years last year as a result of her work for Iranian rights groups, the Defenders of Human Rights Center.

She was defending protesters who took part in protests following the disputed presidential election in 2009 and also spoke to national and international media about her clients’ cases.

Arrested on 4 September 2010 and later charged with acting against national security and for propaganda against the regime, Sotoudeh has so far spent 100 days in solitary confinement in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison. She has also been banned from practicing law for 10 years.

Supporters believe that as an outspoken advocate for the rights of women, children, and prisoners of conscience, who has been critical of the Iranian authorities, Sotoudeh has herself become a target.

To mark the launch of the Free Sotoudeh Project, which coincides with Human Rights Day tomorrow (10 December) the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has produced a video in which Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi joins other supporters to call for  her freedom.

“Her attempts to disseminate information and call on public support led to her arrest,” says Ebadi.

“The judiciary has lost its independence and things are getting worse day by day. When a judge is not willing to uphold the law or listen to the lawyer’s appeal we have no choice but to seek help from the public’s conscience.”

Hundreds of journalists, political activists, student leaders, and human right defenders have been imprisoned as part of a prolonged crackdown carried out by the authorities since the protests of 2009.

Sotoudeh is one of around 300 women known to have been imprisoned (see WVoN story). Up to 34 of those women are understood to be incarcerated in Evin prison, where they are kept in one room and forced to sleep on the floor, according to fellow campaigners.

The lawyer, whose clients have included journalist Isa Saharkhiz and Heshmat Tabarzadi, the head of Iran’s banned opposition group, the Democratic Front, has twice gone on hunger strike to protest the denial of her basic rights as a defendant and prisoner.

“Nasrin Sotoudeh is one of the bravest and most outspoken human rights defenders in Iran and her family has been working tirelessly to secure her release,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the campaign’s spokesperson.

“It is only appropriate that for Human Rights Day we step up our efforts to raise Sotoudeh’s profile and pressure the Iranian government to free her.”

This article appeared on Women’s Views on News 9 December, 2011