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Detained Activist's Case Not Delivered To Court Husband Says

Iran -- Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh smiles at her home in Tehran on September 18, 2013
Iran -- Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh smiles at her home in Tehran on September 18, 2013

The case file against prominent Iranian lawyer, former political prisoner and human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh has not yet been delivered to the court, her husband disclosed on July 1.

Speaking to the state-run Iran Students News Agency (ISNA), Reza Khandan said the judiciary had rejected the lawyers Sotoudeh proposed for her defense.

She has also declined the bail set for her release, he said.

“Nasrin has declined to be freed on a 6.5 billion rial (roughly $150,000) bail, arguing the bail set is out of proportion and not compatible with the new charges filed against her,” Khandan said.

Sotoudeh is charged with collusion, assembly, and “propaganda against the establishment,” charges she has categorically dismissed as invalid and baseless, Khandan noted.

She was detained on June 13 at her home and taken to Tehran’s notorious prison, Evin, without explanation.

In a later telephone conversation, Sotoudeh told her husband she had been detained after an examining magistrate in the city of Kashan, Mehdi Paytam, filed charges against her.

“During the interrogation, she was told that the charges against her are propaganda against the state and assembly and collusion because she colluded with [her client] Ms. Shaparak [Shajarizadeh] in the courthouse in Kashan,” Khandan told the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

Paytam is the judge assigned to investigate the case of Shajarizadeh, one of the women recently prosecuted for protesting compulsory hijab by removing their headscarves in public locations across Tehran.

Shajarizadeh was detained for a second time on May 8, while visiting Kashan, 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Tehran.

Sotoudeh, who represented Shajarizadeh, told reporters her client had gone on a hunger strike to protest her detention. Eight days later, on May 16, Shajarizadeh was released on bail.

The authorities have argued that the lawyers Sotoudeh picked are not on the list of attorneys approved as “trustworthy” by Chief Justice Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani.

Based on a note recently added to Article 48 of the country’s Criminal Code, judicial officials maintain that defendants are legally bound to choose their lawyers, in the preliminary stages of a “security-related” trial, from a list of attorneys already approved by the head of judiciary.

Article 48 stipulates that people have the right to a meeting with a lawyer as soon as they are detained; however, the “Note to Article 48” makes exceptions, stipulating, “In cases of crimes against internal or external security -- during the investigation phase, the parties to the dispute are to select their attorneys from a list approved by the head of the judiciary.”

Scores of lawyers, including Sotoudeh, have repeatedly rejected the amendment, saying they are prevented from representing people accused of political and national security crimes at all stages of the legal process.

“It’s like telling someone they can get an operation from only three surgeons selected by us, not any of the thousands of other doctors in the city,” Sotoudeh told CHRI. “The judiciary chief’s ill-conceived action is a dangerous precedent.” On June 14, the United States said it was “deeply concerned” by reports that prominent Iranian human rights lawyer Sotoudeh had been arrested in Tehran and called for her immediate release.

Sotoudeh “has spent the past several years being harassed by the Iranian regime and has been routinely placed behind bars for daring to defend the rights of those in Iran,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a June 14 statement. “We applaud Ms. Sotoudeh’s bravery and her fight for the long-suffering victims of the regime," she added. Nauert called on the Iranian authorities “to release her immediately, along with the hundreds of others who are currently imprisoned simply for expressing their views and desires for a better life.”

Iranian authorities have not officially responded to the statement.

The 55-year-old human rights lawyer has been pressured and jailed in the past for taking up sensitive cases. The mother of two was arrested in 2010 and sentenced to six years in prison on a number of charges, including acting against Iran's national security. She was released in 2013 after serving three years. In 2012, the European Parliament gave its most prestigious award, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, to Sotoudeh and acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi.

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