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European Parliament Urges Iran To Release Sotoudeh, Other Jailed Rights Defenders

Nasrin Sotoudeh was the co-winner of the European Parliament's 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

BRUSSELS -- The European Parliament has urged Iran to stop criminalizing the work of women's rights activists and reiterated its call on the country's authorities to "immediately and unconditionally" release prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.

In a resolution adopted on March 14, the lawmakers urged Iran to release "all human rights defenders, prisoners of conscience, and journalists detained and sentenced merely for exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly."

It also called on the authorities to "stop the surveillance, arrest, harassment, and prosecution of journalists, online activists and their families, and to put an end to online censorship."

Sotoudeh, the co-winner of the European Parliament's 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, last year represented several of the women detained for removing their head scarves in public to protest against the country's Islamic dress code.

She has reportedly been sentenced to a total of 38 years in prison and 148 lashes after what Amnesty International called two "grossly unfair" trials.

The activist was arrested in June and ordered to serve a five-year sentence imposed on her in absentia in 2016.

And in February, the Iranian authorities allowed Sotoudeh to read the verdict in her most recent court case, which showed that she had been convicted of seven charges and sentenced to an additional 33 years in prison and 148 lashes, London-based Amnesty International said on March 14.

Sotoudeh's husband, Reza Khandan, earlier this week said that she will have to serve an extra 10-years in prison -- the longest sentence of the seven verdicts -- on top of a five-year term she is currently serving.

There have been conflicting reports and statements about the length of the sentences imposed on Sotoudeh, with a judge at Tehran's Revolutionary Court saying earlier this month that she had been sentenced to seven years in prison on two charges.

An outspoken critic of the Iranian establishment, Sotoudeh previously spent three years in prison on security charges after representing dissidents arrested during mass protests in 2009 against the disputed reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

She has denied all charges against her.

The U.S. State Department on March 12 condemned the new prison sentences imposed on Sotoudeh "in the strongest possible terms."

"This sentence is beyond barbaric," spokesman Robert Palladino said at a press briefing.

The European Commission has called for an immediate review of Sotoudeh's case, saying that her trial featured "a number of other violations of the right to due process."