Iran: Call for Release of Human Rights Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh
On September 4th, 2010 Nasrin Sotoudeh was arrested and charged with "propaganda against the state" and "conspiracy to disturb order" by Iranian officials and taken to Evin prison. These vaguely worded charges are among several articles in the Islamic Penal Code in Iran relating to “national security” that criminalize the peaceful exercise of rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. Such provisions have previously been exercised to prosecute lawyers for statements they had made or and activities they had conducted in defence of their clients.
Nasrin Sotoudeh was born in 1963 to what may be considered a religious middle class family in Iran. She completed her studies in International Law in Shahid Beheshti University in the early 90s. Married to Reza Khandan in 1994, with whom she has two children, Nasrin regards her husband, Reza, as very committed to her work as a women’s rights activist. After completing her Masters degree in International Law, Nasrin took and passed the bar exam successfully in 1995 to become a lawyer. However, her permit to practice law was not granted to her until eight (8) years later.
Once Nasrin was able to practice law, she started working as an advocate, defending cases related to human rights, women’s rights, and children's rights. She became one of the first members of the One Million Signatures Campaign, an Iranian initiative promoting equal rights for women. Following the launch of the One Million Signatures Campaign and the widespread growth of the women's rights movement, she represented many women's rights activists and especially One Million Signatures Campaign activists on a pro bono basis. Her work with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi in the area of women's rights increased Nasrin’s interest in the field. She became a strong proponent of women’s rights activism amongst her colleagues in the human rights and women’s rights movements in Iran.
Nasrin is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Society for Defense of Children's Rights. She has defended cases of child abuse victims, child executions (execution sentences given to defendants under 18 years of age), as well as individuals who were sentenced to execution after the 2009 Presidential Election unrest.
Nasrin’s work was not limited to the legal profession. She was also the only female author in "Daricheh Goftegoo" – a publication run by a group of individuals with Nationalist-Religious (Melli-Mazhabi) leanings. At one point, she gathered a diverse collection of interviews, reports, and articles for Daricheh to commemorate International Women’s Day (8th March). Her writings were rejected by the Editor-in-Chief of the publication, but the experience made her even more determined to pursue her work for women’s rights. She also worked as a journalist for a reformist newspaper "Jame'e".
In recognition of her work as a women’s human rights defender, Nasrin became the recipient of an international human rights award in 2008 by the International Human Rights Organization of Italy (a non governmental human rights institute). She was unable to receive the honour personally because she was placed on a travel ban by the Iranian authorities.
On September 4th of this year, she was arrested and charged with "propaganda against the state" and "conspiracy to disturb order" by Iranian officials and taken to Evin prison. These vaguely worded charges are among several articles in the Islamic Penal Code in Iran relating to “national security” that criminalize the peaceful exercise of rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. Such provisions have previously been exercised to prosecute lawyers for statements they had made or and activities they had conducted in defence of their clients.
Nasrin went into hunger strike three weeks after her arrest and ended it only upon husband’s plea. Her family and lawyers continue to be denied any access to her.
Prior to her arrest, Nasrin had been warned to stop representing Shirin Ebadi, a leader of the One Million Signature Campaign and one of the most well known reformist critics of the current Iranian administration. Nasrin’s husband Reza Khandan and her lawyer Nasim Ghanavi, have also been warned against speaking publicly about her ordeal. Reza has also been summoned by the Revolutionary Court, in which he has described as receiving a “series of threats”, and has since reported that his and Nasrin’s assets have been frozen by the government.
On 23 November 2010, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed concern for Nasrin’s condition, calling her case part of a much broader crackdown on human rights defenders in Iran. Navi Pillay urged the Iranian authorities to review her case urgently and expedite her release.
What you can do to support Nasrin’s case.
PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in Persian, English, or your own language:
- Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Nasrin Sotoudeh, held solely for her peaceful exercise of her rights to freedom of expression and association, including her work as a lawyer;
- Calling on the Iranian authorities to ensure that she is protected from torture or other ill-treatment while held, and she is granted immediate and regular access to her family including her husband, and her lawyer;
- Urging the Iranian authorities to act on the UN’s call to review her case urgently and expedite her release in advance of a UN-backed judicial seminar to be held in Tehran on 1-2 December, addressing fair trial issues and the treatment of detainees.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 05 JANUARY 2011 TO:
Leader of the Islamic Republic
Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic Street – End of Shahid Keshvar Doust Street, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
via website: (English)
Salutation: Your Excellency
Head of the Judiciary
Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani
[care of] Public relations Office
Number 4, 2 Azizi Street
Vali Asr Ave., above Pasteur Street intersection
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Email: Via website:http://www.bia-judiciary.ir/tabid/62/Default.aspx; 2nd box (starred)=first name,3rd box(starred)=family name,5th box (starred)=email address, last box=substance of message
Salutation: Your Excellency
And copies to:
Director, Human Rights Headquarters of Iran
Mohammad Javad Larijani
Bureau of International Affairs, Office of the Head of the Judiciary, Pasteur St., Vali Asr Ave. south of Serah-e Jomhouri, Tehran 1316814737,
Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: + 98 21 5 537 8827 (please keep trying)
Also send copies to diplomatic representatives of Iran accredited to your country. Check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date. This is the second update of UA 197/10. Further information: