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Security Agents Storm Detained Lawyer's House

Nasrin Sotoudeh. Undated photo
Nasrin Sotoudeh. Undated photo

Agents of the Islamic republic’s Ministry of Intelligence stormed the house of a prominent lawyer and human rights activist, Nasrin Sotoudeh, on Saturday, her husband has disclosed.

In an exclusive interview with Radio Farda, Reza Khandan said, “It was eight o’clock in the morning when the security agents stormed into our apartment and ransacked it.”

The agents somehow forced neighbors to open the main entrance to the building, Khandan noted, adding, “Our young children were asleep when three huge armed guys stormed into the place and searched every corner. Our children woke up and found these armed corpulent men over their beds. They were deeply shocked.”

The Intelligence Ministry is constitutionally under the control of the president of the republic, not the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

The 55-year-old human rights lawyer has been arrested and kept behind bars in Tehran’s notorious prison, Evin, since June 13.

Days before her arrest, Ms. Sotoudeh had represented two ladies who had removed their scarves in a busy street in Tehran to protest compulsory hijab.

Nasrin Sotoudeh (center, holding flower) demonstrates in front of Iran Bar Association, October 2014
Nasrin Sotoudeh (center, holding flower) demonstrates in front of Iran Bar Association, October 2014

In an earlier interview Khandan had told Radio Farda that on the day of the arrest security forces told him 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 Revolution Court. But they didn’t have the verdict with them," Khandan said.

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

The mother of two was initially 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.

In his latest interview with Radio Farda, Khandan lamented, “The agents of the Intelligence Ministry collected several lapel pins in our place reading ‘I am against compulsory hijab’ or ‘I protest compulsory hijab’. They were so excited with their finding as if they had discovered hidden Hydrogen bombs.”

Furthermore, Khandan insisted that he had been shocked to learn that the agents also ransacked his sister’s house, while she has got nothing to do with the cases related to Nasrin.

“While people are dying of hunger in Iran and the country’s suffering from high inflation, the Islamic Republic’s security agents are searching for lapels that are not banned by the law,” Khandan told Radio Farda, noting, “As a matter of fact, my wife uses one of these badges inside the prison and whenever she faces judiciary’s representatives.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Sotoudeh’s lawyers had announced that their client had been told she had already been found guilty "in absentia" on spying charges by Tehran's Revolutionary Court.

One of her lawyers, Payam Derafshan, told AFP the trial took place some time ago, but that the sentence was not implemented until she represented several women arrested earlier this year for protesting against wearing mandatory headscarf in public.

Her defense team said no espionage charge was ever included in her charge sheet, which instead listed other charges including "propaganda against the system".

"There is no evidence in her file for the charge of spying, no report by the intelligence ministry to explain how she is a spy," Derafshan told AFP.

After a complaint was made to the judge, he added another charge related to her advocacy work against the death penalty, Derafshan said.

"Nowhere in the law is it a crime to call for the gradual repeal of the death penalty. Even officials and experts talk about eliminating the death penalty for drug offenses," Derafshan told IRNA on Tuesday.

The State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert expressed concern for Sotoudeh on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the European Union has also expressed serious concerns about the continuing detention of Nasrin Sotoudeh who is currently serving a five-year jail sentence.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) also said on Saturday, August 17, “The recent release of a verdict against Nasrin Sotoudeh in an earlier court case reveals the grave degree the Iranian judiciary is criminalizing human rights activism.

Sotoudeh is one of a number of human rights advocates targeted in a government crackdown since the beginning of 2018.

“Especially when it comes to cases of human rights defenders like Nasrin Sotoudeh, Iranian authorities blatantly disregard due process rights,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Apparently what authorities fear greatly is advocating respect for human rights.”

The authorities should immediately release anyone detained for their human rights work, which appears to include Sotoudeh as well as another activist, Narges Mohammadi, who was sentenced on similar charges in 2015, HRW said.