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Prominent Imprisoned Lawyer Furloughed After Young Daughter Dies

Homa Soltani, the daughter of prominent Iranian lawyer and political prisoner Abdolfattah Soltani, undated.

One of the founders of “Defenders of Human Rights Center” in Iran, Abdolfattah Soltani has been granted furlough to attend her young daughter’s funeral, Saturday, August 4.

Soltani’s 27-year old daughter, Homa, died of heart failure on Friday evening.

Earlier, Soltani had repeatedly been denied furlough, despite his fragile health. It is not yet clear how long the 64-year will be able to stay out of prison, but his attorney, Saeid Dehqan, told state-run Iran Students News Agency (ISNA) that the Islamic Republic authorities might extend his client’s furlough.

The news concerning the unexpected and sudden death of Homa Soltani has been widely circulated in social media.

According to well-informed sources, President Hassan Rouhani’s Ministry of Intelligence is directly responsible for keeping the prominent human rights activist behind bars.

Nevertheless, President Rouhani’s Special Aide on Citizen Rights Affairs, Shahindokht Molaverdi joined thousands of other people and officially relayed a message of condolences to the bereaved father.

Iranian rights' defenders Abdolfattah Soltani and Narges Mohammadi.
Iranian rights' defenders Abdolfattah Soltani and Narges Mohammadi.

Meanwhile, the US State Department has also expressed its sorrow for Soltani’s loss in a tweet.

Abdolfattah Soltani, who represented a number of prominent dissidents and political prisoners prior to his arrest on September 10, 2011, is serving a thirteen-year prison sentence for “being awarded the [2009] Nuremberg International Human Rights Award,” “giving interviews to the media about his clients’ cases,” and “co-founding the Defenders of Human Rights Center” with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi.

The renowned lawyer has repeatedly gone on hunger strike to protest “unbearable” prison condition and maltreatment of the inmates across Iran. He suspended his last strike on March 26 at the request of thousands of attorneys and civil society activists who believed the move threatened his life.

Soltani announced he would suspend his hunger strike until April 10 to allow parliament and lawyers unions time to research his case and reinstate his rights in a “tension-free atmosphere.”

Earlier, in a March 25 letter addressed to the Islamic Republic’s judiciary, several members of parliament, and the chairmen of Iranian Bar Association and lawyers’ unions, 3,600 lawyers and civil rights activists had called for “using all means” for Soltani’s release. In the same letter the signatories asked Soltani to suspend his hunger strike until April 10.

A group of German lawyers in Nuremberg show their solidarity with Abdolfattah Soltani by sending him a postcard. undated.
A group of German lawyers in Nuremberg show their solidarity with Abdolfattah Soltani by sending him a postcard. undated.

Soltani began his hunger strike to protest what he says is the Intelligence Ministry’s interference in judicial proceedings against political prisoners.

While thieves enjoy their basic human rights behind bars, political prisoners are controlled and persecuted by the Intelligence Ministry’s agents, Soltani argued.

Earlier, Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, who is in contact with Soltani, said the person investigating Soltani’s case is an Intelligence Ministry official known as “Mahmoudi.”

According to Ms. Ebadi, Mahmoudi was in charge of her own interrogation while she was in jail, as well as that of another prominent human rights defender, Ms. Nargess Mohammadi.

The NGO Soltani co-founded was declared defunct by the Islamic Republic’s authorities and its founders were arrested.

However, Ebadi, 71, scared for her life, managed to leave Tehran and currently lives in exile in the UK since June 2009.

Ebadi’s Vice President in DHRC, Nargess Mohammadi was found guilty of "acting against the national security, membership of the DHRC and propaganda against the regime", in July 2011. In March 2012, the sentence was upheld by an appeals court. Ms. Mohammadi was arrested on April, to begin her sentence and she is behind bars since then.

In an interview with New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), Soltani’s other daughter, Maedeh, says her father should have been freed long ago.

According to Ms. Soltani, President Hassan Rouhani and his Ministry of Intelligence are directly responsible for keeping her father behind bars.

“Mr. Rouhani has uttered some slogans in defense of citizens’ rights, but that has made no difference in the Intelligence Ministry’s decisions or else my father, who happens to be a defender of citizens’ rights and freedoms, would not be sitting in prison,” she said. “I believe the Intelligence Ministry is still being run by the same gang who took away my father’s freedom.”