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Prominent Rights Defender Furloughed After Seven Years In Jail

Abdolfattah Soltani (L) after his release on November 21.

Prominent Iranian lawyer and human rights activist, Abdolfattah Soltani has been conditionally released, local news outlets reported on Wednesday, November 21.

In an exclusive interview with Radio Farda, the lawyer's daughter, Ma'edeh Soltani, confirmed the reports and reiterated that her father has been released after spending more than half of his term behind bars.

Under the Islamic Republic law, convicts can be granted conditional freedom after serving at least half of their prison terms.

The state-run Iran Students News Agency( ISNA) reported Wednesday that Abdolfattah Soltani was reunited with his family after an Islamic Revolution Court ruled to release him on Tuesday.

Earlier, Abdolfattah Soltani was granted a furlough August 4 to attend his 27-year old daughter, Homa’s funeral who has died of heart failure.

The 64-year old lawyer was back behind bars despite his fragile health. It is not clear how long he 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 reason and timing of his release are also not clear, although it could be related to Tehran's desire to improve its image both internally and externally amid difficult international and economic challenges.

Soltani co-founded Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC) in 2001 with Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, and other activists. He was sentenced to ten years jail time in 2011 on charges of anti-government activities during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's presidency.

In October 2012, Soltani was awarded the International Bar Association's Human Rights Award. Because His daughter Maede Soltani received it on his behalf.

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

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

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department 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 in September 2011, was 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”.

While doing his term, the renowned lawyer, repeatedly went 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.”

Prior to his arrest, Soltani defended Baha'i minority members as well as the relatives of the victims of the so-called political Chain Murders.

The Chain Murders were a series of 1988–98 murders and disappearances of certain Iranian dissident intellectuals who had been critical of the Islamic Republic system in one way or another; the murders and disappearances were carried out by Iranian government operatives, later officially described as "rogue elements".

Reportedly, the victims included more than 80 writers, translators, poets, political activists, and ordinary citizens, and were killed by a variety of means—car crashes, stabbings, strangulation, shootings in staged robberies, injections with potassium to simulate heart attack—in what some say was an attempt to avoid the connection between them. The pattern of murders did not come to light until late 1998 when a former minister of labor, Dariush Forouhar, his wife Parvaneh Eskandari Forouhar, and three dissident writers, Mohammad Mokhtari, Majid Sharif and Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh were murdered over a span of two months.