(Beirut) – Iranian authorities arrested Nasrin Sotoudeh, one of the country’s most prominent human rights defenders, on June 13, 2018, Human Rights Watch said today. Iranian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release her.
Reza Khandan, Sotoudeh’s husband, announced the arrest on Facebook on June 13. Khandan also told the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) that the authorities who arrested Sotoudeh told him they were taking her to prison to serve a five-year prison sentence she had received in absentia, although the Iranian authorities had neither previously informed her about nor publicly announced the conviction or sentence. She had previously served three years in prison for her activism.
“Nasrin Sotoudeh is a human rights champion who should be applauded, not jailed, for her tireless defense of citizens’ rights,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Iran’s judiciary again has revealed to its citizens and the international community its disdain for and fear of people who seek to protect human rights.”
In November 2017, Sotoudeh told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) that the Revolutionary Court in Evin prison had summoned her, but that she refused to participate in the process because she did not believe that the court would follow legal procedures and felt that she would be tried under unfair circumstances.
Over the past several months, Sotoudeh represented several women who had taken off their headscarves in public to protest Iran’s compulsory dress code (hijab) laws. She also criticized the judiciary’s move to allow only an extremely limited pre-approved government list of lawyers to represent people charged with national security crimes.
Security forces previously arrested Sotoudeh on September 4, 2010, and in January 2011 Branch 26 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court sentenced her to 11 years in prison and banned her from practicing law for 20 years. The charges included “acting against national security,” “propaganda against the state,” and “membership in the Center for Human Rights Defenders,” the group formed by the Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi and other lawyers.
On September 14, 2011, Branch 54 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Appeals Court reduced Sotoudeh’s sentence to six years and reduced the legal practice ban to 10 years. In September 2013, authorities released Sotoudeh with a pardon. On August 31, 2014, and after several days of Sotoudeh staging a sit-in outside the Tehran Bar Association, the disciplinary court of lawyers rejected the prosecutor’s appeal to suspend Sotoudeh’s Iranian Bar Association’s membership, allowing her to return to her practice as a human rights lawyer.