Nasrin Sotoudeh on Temporary Leave from Prison

On Saturday 7 November, imprisoned human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was given temporary leave from Gharchak Prison in the Iranian city of Varamin, south of Tehran, according to her husband Reza Khandan.

Sotoudeh, who has been jailed a number of times for her peaceful human rights work as a defence lawyer in Iran, has been in prison since her arrest on 13 June 2018 for advocating against the compulsory hijab and her tireless human rights work.

In March 2019 she was informed by the office overseeing the implementation of sentences In Tehran’s Evin prison, where Sotoudeh is jailed, that she had been convicted on seven charges and sentenced to 33 years in prison and 148 lashes.  The charges, all of which are in response to her peaceful human rights work, include “inciting corruption and prostitution”, “openly committing a sinful act by […] appearing in public without a hijab”, and “disrupting public order”.

During her sentencing, Article 134 of Iran’s penal code was applied, which allows judges to use their discretion to impose a higher sentence than the maximum laid down by statute when a defendant faces more than three charges.  In Nasrin Sotoudeh’s case, the judge, Mohammad Moghiseh, applied the maximum statutory sentence for each of her seven charges and then added another four years to her total prison term, raising it from what would have been the statutory maximum of 29 to 33 years.

The theocratic regime in Iran is determined to completely stifle any civil and political opposition, and the judiciary is the main tool the regime is using to achieve this goal.

The granting of temporary leave to Nasrin Sotoudeh should be seen as one of the regime’s manoeuvres to counter the mounting international pressure on the regime owing to its appalling human rights record.  The fact remains that not only has the situation of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience shown no signs of improving, but the regime’s repressive forces continue to hunt down, persecute, torture and disappear those struggling for freedom – while hundreds of political prisoners, including many females, remain in regime dungeons.

On 11 August 2020, Ms. Sotoudeh began a hunger strike to protest the situation of political prisoners in Iran, especially their exclusion from prisoner release programs aimed at stemming the tide of COVID-19 in the country’s overcrowded and unsanitary prisons.

She was hospitalised on 19 September as her medical condition rapidly deteriorated – only to be sent back to Evin prison on 23 September 23 despite her worsening health.

On 26 September, when Ms. Sotoudeh ended her hunger strike, her husband revealed that the prison doctors were “shocked” that she had been returned to prison in her condition, and had “strongly protested” against it, not least as severe cardiac issues were identified during her hospitalisation.

Mr. Khandan, also reported that during her hospitalisation, Sotoudeh was exposed to guards who later tested positive for COVID-19.

On 20 October, she was transferred from Evin Prison to the notoriously harsh Gharchak Prison (also spelled Qarchak), despite serious continuing cardiac and pulmonary issues that required her medical treatment be continued.

CODIR has continually campaigned for the release of Nasrin Sotoudeh and once again calls upon the Iranian authorities to release her once and for all.  

Jamshid Ahmadi, Assistant General Secretary of CODIR, stated: “Nasrin Sotoudeh is a brave human rights lawyer who has done no wrong and should not have been treated like this.  We call for the release of Nasrin Sotoudeh and indeed all political prisoners in Iran immediately and without any precondition.”

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