IRAN - The Sotoudeh case

18 November 2019 :

The Sotoudeh case. Nasrin Sotoudeh (also spelled Sotoodeh‎) is a human rights lawyer in Iran. She has represented imprisoned Iranian opposition activists and politicians following the disputed June 2009 Iranian presidential elections as well as prisoners sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were minors. Her clients have included journalist Isa Saharkhiz, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, and Heshmat Tabarzadi, the head of the banned opposition group National Democratic Front. She has also represented women arrested for appearing in public without a hijab, which is a punishable offence in Iran. Sotoudeh was arrested in September 2010 on charges of spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security and was imprisoned in solitary confinement in Evin Prison. In January 2011, Iranian authorities sentenced Sotoudeh to 11 years in prison, in addition to barring her from practising law and from leaving the country for 20 years. Later that year, an appeals court reduced her sentence to six years and her practice ban to ten years. In June 2018 she was again arrested, and on 12 March 2019 sentenced to jail in Tehran, after being charged with several national security-related offences. While a Tehran judge told the Islamic Republic News Agency she was imprisoned for seven years, it was reported by other sources that the maximum sentence included 10 years in prison and 148 lashes, along with six other verdicts and sentences totalling 38 years bundled together. Nasrin Sotoudeh was born in 1963 in a "religious, middle-class" Iranian family. She studied law at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran. After completing her degree in international law, Sotoudeh passed the bar exam successfully in 1995 but had to wait another eight years to be given her permit to practice law. Sotoudeh is married to Reza Khandan. They have two children together. Sotoudeh started her career at the Iranian Ministry of Housing legal office and after two years joined the legal section of the state-owned Bank Tejarat. Sotoudeh's "first work in the field of women's rights" was a diverse collection of interviews, reports, and articles for the journal Daricheh. The editor-in-chief of the publication rejected the collection which "made Sotoudeh even more determined in her work for women's rights". On 28 August 2010, Iranian authorities raided Sotoudeh's office. At the time, Sotoudeh was representing Zahra Bahrami, a Dutch-Iranian dual citizen charged with security offenses; it was unclear whether the raid was related to Bahrami. On 4 September 2010, Iranian authorities arrested Sotoudeh on charges of spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security. The Washington Post described the arrest as "highlighting an intensifying crackdown on lawyers who defend influential opposition politicians, activists and journalists." Sotoudeh, was imprisoned in Evin Prison, was reportedly held in solitary confinement. On 9 January 2011, Iranian authorities sentenced Sotoudeh to 11 years in jail. Additionally, she has been barred from practicing law and from leaving the country for 20 years. In mid-September 2011, an appeals court reduced Nasrin Sotoudeh's prison sentence to six years; her ban from working as a lawyer was reduced to ten years. Sotoudeh was released on 18 September 2013 along with ten other political prisoners, including opposition leader Mohsen Aminzadeh, days before an address by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to the United Nations. No explanation was given for her early release. Sotoudeh was arrested again on June13, 2018. According to her lawyer, she was charged with espionage, dissemination of propaganda and disparaging the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei. On 22 August 2018, 60 members of the European Parliament called on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to forcefully work for Sotoudeh's "unconditional release." On 6 March 2019, she was convicted in absentia, after refusing to attend the trial before Tehran's Islamic Revolutionary Court because she was unable to select her own counsel. She was charged with a number of offences, including being a member of a human rights organisation and stoking "corruption and prostitution". On 11 March, Judge Mohammad Moqiseh told the Islamic Republic News Agency she was sentenced to five years for endangering the country's security through assembly and two years for insulting Khamenei. On 12 March, Sotoudeh's husband, Reza Khandan, said that only the longest sentence of the current trial verdicts would be served, which is 10 years' imprisonment (for "encouraging corruption and debauchery and providing the means"), out of a total 33 years for seven charges bundled together; this was in addition to five years for another case, bringing the total to 38 years, plus 148 lashes. Before the verdict had been announced, the UN deputy high commissioner for human rights, Kate Gilmore, had been allowed to visit Sotoudeh. The visit was the first in many years by UN human rights investigators. The UN investigator on human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, raised Sotoudeh’s case at the UN human rights council in Geneva on 11 March, saying that she had been "reportedly convicted of charges relating to her work and could face a lengthy prison sentence”. 


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