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European MEPs Urge Iran To Release Jailed Rights Lawyer

Nasrin Sotoudeh in 2013

BRUSSELS – The European Parliament has overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling for the Iranian government to “immediately and unconditionally” release jailed human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.

The lawmakers made the call on December 13, six months after Sotoudeh was arrested after she represented several of the women detained for removing their head scarves in public to protest against the country’s Islamic dress code.

She is facing several charges, including for her efforts to represent women who protested compulsory hijab laws and her public support of Step By Step To Stop The Death Penalty, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to reducing executions in Iran.

Sotoudeh -- the co-winner of the European Parliament's 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought -- has denied all charges against her.

In their resolution, the European lawmakers expressed their “sympathy for and solidarity with the campaign against the country’s mandatory dress code” and condemned the detention of women who had removed their head scarves in public.

The text also called on EU institutions and European Union member states to raise human rights concerns with the Iranian authorities and to provide “all appropriate support” to Sotoudeh and other human rights defenders, including "prison visits, trial monitoring, and the provision of legal or any other form of assistance that they might require.”

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch raised alarm over Iran’s “escalated” crackdown on lawyers, saying that revolutionary courts had sentenced at least three lawyers to long prison terms for their human rights activism over the past month.

Security forces have arrested another lawyer, the New York-based watchdog added.

“Now Iran is not only arresting dissidents, human rights defenders, and labor leaders, but their lawyers as well, criminalizing their fundamental freedoms,” Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at HRW, said in a statement.

Iran’s authorities are “incinerating what remains of fundamental freedoms to cover up their manifold abuses against their own citizens,” Page also said.