Sixty members of the European Parliament have expressed deep concern over the prolonged detention of Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and demanded her unconditional release in a letter to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on August 22.
The letter pointed out that Sotoudeh "was arrested in June of this year to serve a five-year prison sentence for previously unreleased charges, apparently solely because of her human rights work," adding, "Last week, it was revealed that Nasrin Sotoudeh is facing new charges, reportedly including charges of espionage, which is an extremely worrying development."
The European MPs called on Rouhani to ask the Iranian judiciary "to respect due process and disclose information about the charges that Nasrin Sotoudeh is facing."
They also called on Rouhani to do all within his power to ensure Sotoudeh's unconditional release.
The letter characterized Sotoudeh as "an immensely courageous and respected lawyer, who is an inspiration to many in Iran and all over the world."
Marietje Schaake, one of the signatories, broke the news about this letter on her Twitter page.
Sotoudeh, who was arrested on June 1, has been in jail under a temporary arrest warrant, according to her husband, Reza Khandan. Khandan says Sotoudeh was sentenced in absentia in 2016 to five years in jail.
Khandan said in an interview with Radio Farda that the conviction was made based on Article 510 of the Islamic Penal Code, which is about espionage, but the court never levied such a charge against her, adding that "the sentence does not correspond to the charges in the indictment."
Sotoudeh said in a letter from Tehran's Evin Prison on August 22 that she will not report to the court or respond to the accusation, stressing that her refusal to defend herself is a lawful act based on Article 48 of the Penal Code.
Elsewhere in the letter, Sotoudeh says she has been denied the right to have her own defense lawyer although she has introduced three lawyers to the court.
A well-known human rights lawyer and Sakharov award laureate, Sotoudeh has defended many political and civil activists in Iranian courts, and her latest detention was reportedly because she defended female activists who had protested against compulsory hijab in Iran.
Several international human rights watchdogs had also called for Sotoudeh's unconditional release in June.
Meanwhile, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) reported on August 15 that the husband of prominent Iranian political prisoner Narges Mohammadi has called on Iran’s judiciary to release his ailing wife.
Mohammadi, who was sentenced to 16 years in prison for her membership in the Defenders of Human Rights Center, was rushed to a hospital in Tehran on August 13.
“Narges should be free but, under the current circumstances, at the very least, she should be allowed to go home so that her illness can be controlled without any stress,” her husband, Taghi Rahmani, told CHRI.
CHRI quoted the Defenders of Human Rights Center, where Mohammadi worked before she was arrested, as saying in an August 13 statement that she had lost more than 16 pounds and doctors had found a growth in her stomach but had not been given the chance to do further tests.