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Jailed Rights Defender Demands Full Investigation Of Iran Protest Deaths

A banner with a giant portrait of jailed Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh is seen on the headquarters of the French National Bar Council, demanding her release, in Paris, March 28, 2019

Nasrin Sotoudeh, one of the most prominent Iranian human rights defenders has published a statement from prison demanding a full independent investigation of government’s bloody crackdown on November protests that killed hundreds.

Sotoudeh, a lawyer, is serving a 38-year sentence for defending women’s right to reject compulsory hijab. She was arrested in 2018. More than one million people in the world have signed a petition for her release.

Protests in Iran broke out on November 15 after gasoline prices were suddenly increased. Government security forces almost immediately resorted to full use of force against largely young demonstrators frustrated by lack of jobs and freedoms. Numerous videos show security forces firing directly at protesters, sometimes at close range.

In her statement Sotoudeh demands an “independent investigation with the participation of lawyers trusted by the people, and civil activists, as well as supervision by UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights and its Special Rapporteur”.

She has also urged Iran’s government to reveal the number of those killed, injured and arrested during the protests. She has reminded the authorities that most of those detained are kept in dangerous prison conditions. The government should also return the bodies of the victims to the families and allow them to hold proper mourning rites.

Amnesty International has confirmed the deaths of at least 208 protesters, but Iranian groups and the United States say hundreds more were killed.

On Monday, 160 Iranian lawyers sent a letter to President Hassan Rouhani making similar demands and asking for accountability by those who ordered security forces to open fire.