Human Rights Lawyer, Nasrin Sotoodeh, on Hunger Strike

Thursday 7 October 2010

Change for Equality: Nasrin Sotoodeh, a human rights lawyer, who has taken up the task of representing many social and political activists as well as juvenile offenders on a pro-bono basis, has according to several reports been on hunger strike, since September 24. Nasrin Sotoodeh was arrested on September 4, after she was issued a summons to appear in court. The summons to appear in court followed a search of her home and confiscation of personal property by security forces. Since her detention, Nasrin’s father passed away and despite having posted a bail order in the amount of 150 Million Tomans (roughly $150,000) Sotoodeh was prevented from attending her father’s funeral services.

This women’s rights defender and lawyer who has also represented many Campaign activists, had not been allowed to contact her family from prison for 21 days. Finally, after a long period of no contact, Sotoodeh was allowed to call home on October 6, but only managed to speak to her husband Reza Khandan, for a few seconds, before the call was cut off. In these few seconds Sotoodeh managed to tell her husband that she has been on hunger strike since September 24, and that she is under pressure and threats while in prison. The call was cut off abruptly by prison officials after Nasrin mentioned that she had been threatened. According to interviews with Reza Khandan, Nasrin had earlier warned that if she was not allowed to contact her family every 4 days she would go on hunger strike. Her situation is particularly worrisome as Nasrin is the mother of two children, aged ten and three, whom she has not been permitted to visit since her arrest.

The arrest of Nasrin Sotoodeh is of particular concern to human rights activists and human rights lawyers, as it signifies the worsening situation of human rights in Iran and mounting pressures against human rights lawyers who choose to defend human rights defenders and social and political activists facing pressures and imprisonment for their political and human rights activities. According to a statement issued by eight leading human rights groups, Sotoodeh’s arrest is the latest step in a series of measures intended to prevent Iranians – particularly those critical of the authorities - from being able to access appropriate, competent legal representation, a basic right and important fair trial guarantee.

While Nasrin is facing charges of acting against national security and spreading of propaganda against the state, her only crime is that of representing her clients. Nasrin is currently the lawyer representing several high profile human rights defenders including journalist Isa Saharkhiz and Heshmatollah Tabarzadi, leader of the banned Democratic Front of Iran. The former was sentenced and the latter tried after Nasrin Sotoudeh’s arrest. She has also represented juvenile offenders facing the death penalty and is acting as the lawyer for Shirin Ebadi in several cases. Other lawyers arrested since the disputed presidential elections in June 2009, include Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, Abdul Fatah Soltani and Mohammad Olayaifar, to name a few.

Read the joint statement issued by Shirin Ebadi and eight prominent non-governmental organizations condemning the arrest of Nasrin Sotoodeh.


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