Accessibility links

Breaking News

Iran Arrests Prominent Human Rights Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh

Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh (file photo)
Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh (file photo)

Prominent Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh has been arrested in the country’s capital, her husband says.

Reza Khandan wrote on Facebook that security forces appeared at the couple's home on June 13 and took his wife to a court at Tehran's Evin prison.

Later, in an interview Khandan told Radio Farda that security forces said they were taking Sotoudeh away over a prison sentence issued in the past.

"They said they have an arrest warrant for a five-year prison sentence issued for her apparently by a revolutionary court. But they didn’t have the verdict for them," Khandan said.

He added that Sotoudeh didn’t know "anything" about the case.

The 55-year-old human rights lawyer has been pressured and jailed in the past for taking up sensitive cases.

Ms. Sotoudeh is an internationally known symbol of independence in the face of the Islamic Republic’s judiciary dominated by the hardliners close to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Ms. Sotoudeh received the European Union’s most prestigious human rights award, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, in 2012.

“Her arrest is likely to be seen as a provocation in Europe, where some countries have been trying to salvage the nuclear agreement and maintain business ties with Iran,” New York Times reported on Wednesday.

The London-based human rights group Amnesty International condemned her latest detention, calling it an "outrageous attack on a brave and prolific human rights defender."

Sotoudeh has represented several women recently detained for peacefully protesting against the country’s strict dress code by removing their head scarves in public.

An outspoken critic of the Iranian judiciary, she also criticized a newly-created list of lawyers who will be allowed to represent detainees charged with national-security crimes.

Nasrin Sotoudeh was first arrested in 2010, charged with “action against national security”, “anti-Islamic Republic propaganda” and being a member of Center for Defenders of Human Rights (CDHR) launched by Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Shirin Ebadi and her fellow lawyers.

The Islamic Republic’s judiciary banned CDHR almost immediately after its establishment. CDHR’s spokeswoman, Nargess Mohammadi is currently behind bars in Evin prison, northern Tehran, along with another member of the Center, renowned lawyer, Abdolfattah Soltani.

Ms. Sotoudeh was sentenced to eleven-year prison, banned from practice and leaving the country for twenty years by the primary court.

By the ruling of Tehran’s Court of Appeal, the verdict was reduced to six-year imprisonment and ten-year ban on practicing as a lawyer.

After serving three years behind bars, more than half of her sentence, Ms. Sotoudeh was released in 2014.

Immediately after Ms. Sotoudeh’s release, her license as a lawyer was suspended for three years by the Lawyers Regulatory Court.

Sotoudeh appealed and held a sit-in protest in front of Tehran Bar Association offices.

Upon Sotoudeh’s appeal, the Lawyers Regulatory Court decided to return her license in 2015.

Nevertheless, Sotoudeh never stopped her efforts to promote human rights in Iran and criticize the Islamic Republic’s judicial system.

While in prison, Sotoudeh repeatedly went on hunger strike in protest at her arrest and at being deprived of her rights while in jail.