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The Cases That Made Iran Target Human Rights Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh

Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh at home in Tehran in 2013
Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh at home in Tehran in 2013

By arresting Iran’s top human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, powerful Iranian hard-liners are aiming to silence the most prominent voice for the voiceless in the Islamic republic.

Reza Khandan, Sotoudeh's husband
Reza Khandan, Sotoudeh's husband

Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, has said that she was rearrested at her home on June 13 to serve a five-year prison sentence on unknown charges. He said she didn’t know anything about the sentence.

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."

The United States said it was "deeply concerned" by reports of Sotoudeh's rearrest.

"First arrested in 2010, Ms. Sotoudeh has spent the past several years harassed by the Iranian regime and has been routinely placed behind bars for daring to defend the rights of those in Iran," spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. "We applaud Ms. Sotoudeh’s bravery and her fight for the long-suffering victims of the regime. We call on Iranian authorities to release her immediately, along with the hundreds of others who are currently imprisoned simply for expressing their views and desires for a better life."

Sotoudeh, 55, has been among a handful of rights advocates and activists who have stood up against state repression and highlighted human rights abuses in the country.

In 2010, Sotoudeh was sentenced to six years in prison -- reduced from an initial 11-year sentence -- and a 10-year ban on practicing law for several charges, including acting against Iran's national security.

She spent three years in prison before being released unexpectedly in 2013 ahead of a trip to New York to attend the UN General Assembly by the then newly elected president, Hassan Rohani.

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.

These are some of the sensitive political cases Sotoudeh has represented and the issues she has raised in recent years:

Defending Anti-Hijab Protesters

In the past several months, Sotoudeh had been defending several young women who peacefully protested the compulsory hijab rule in Tehran by removing their head scarves in public and waving them on sticks while standing on utility boxes.

Sotoudeh had represented them in courts while also raising their plight in media interviews and by providing details about the cases on her Facebook page. She also criticized the use of force against some of the women, whose protests were forcefully stopped by police.