Prominent Iranian human rights lawyer and women’s rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh has been sentenced to a shocking 33 years in prison and 148 lashes.
The sentence, reported on her husband Reza Khandan’s Facebook page, brings her total sentence after two grossly unfair trials, to 38 years in prison. In September 2016, she was sentenced in her absence to five years in prison in a separate case.
The latest sentence is the harshest sentence Amnesty has documented against a human rights defender in Iran in recent years, suggesting that the authorities are stepping up their repression.
Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director, said: “It is absolutely shocking that Nasrin Sotoudeh is facing nearly four decades in jail and 148 lashes for her peaceful human rights work, including her defence of women protesting against Iran’s degrading forced hijab (veiling) laws.”
Meanwhile, in a confusing development, earlier today the Islamic Republic News Agency reported that Mohammad Moghiseh told journalists that Sotoudeh has been sentenced to seven years in prison: five years for “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security” and two years for “insulting the Supreme Leader”.
This report did not provide further details or clarify whether the judge was referring to a separate case.
“Nasrin Sotoudeh must be released immediately and unconditionally and this obscene sentence quashed without delay,” Luther said.
“Governments with influence over Iran should use their power to push for Nasrin Sotoudeh’s release. The international community, notably the European Union, which has an ongoing dialogue with Iran, must take a strong public stand against this disgraceful conviction and urgently intervene to ensure that she is released immediately and unconditionally.”
Nasrin Sotoudeh’s sentence made me think of an interview I recently did for Lacuna Magazine with another Nasrin, also a human rights and women’s rights defender.
Writer, artist and human rights campaigner Nasrin Parvaz was arrested at the age of 23 by the regime’s secret police after having been betrayed by a comrade. She was tortured and sentenced to death, but her death sentence was commuted to 10 years in prison.
She spent eight years in the same Iranian prison where Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is now being held, and has used the experience as inspiration for a novel and a book of memoirs. Speaking in London, Parvaz told me there are echos of Nazanin’s story in prisons across Iran, where rights defenders have been subjected to rape, routine humiliation, torture and execution.
“The Islamic regime is a master of concealing and deception. When the UN human rights inspectors came to visit Evin prison in 1990, they built a new wall across our corridor to conceal us. We never met the inspectors. While president [Hassan] Rouhani [elected in 2013] publicly promised reforms, behind closed doors, there are still too many prisoners dying in detention.
“Prisons are still full of men and women fighting for civil rights. Questioning how and why the regime operates is still dangerous.”
How terribly true…
You can read her story of activism and time in Iran’s prisons in Lacuna Magazine here.