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07 December 2023

Top Iran rights lawyer jailed for 11 years


Prominent Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh has been sentenced to 11 years in jail and banned for 20 years from working as an attorney and leaving the country, her husband told AFP on Monday.

"They told my wife's lawyer yesterday that she has been sentenced to 11 years in jail and banned for 20 years from working as a lawyer and leaving Iran," Reza Khandan said.

"It is so shocking," he said.

He said Sotoudeh, who has been in jail since September, was found guilty of acting against national security, propaganda against the regime and membership of the Human Rights Defenders' Centre, a rights group headed by Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi.

The accusations were levelled against Sotoudeh, 45-year-old mother of two, mainly over interviews with foreign-based media about her clients jailed after Iran's disputed June 2009 presidential election, Khandan said.

Sotoudeh represented Ebadi, who left Iran on the eve of the vote, and her family as well as Issa Saharkhiz, a journalist and aide to opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi and Heshmat Tabarzadi, a vocal secular democracy activist.

There were also a number of little known post-vote detainees among her clients.

"She talked about the cases she was handling and informed the public sometimes of the flaws in the case. She did not insult anybody and never said anything harsh. This is not a crime," Khandan said.

"Where in the world do they jail a mother for giving a couple of interviews?" he asked.

There has been a chorus of international calls on Iran to free Sotoudeh, who was arrested on September 4 and was reportedly held in solitary confinement in Tehran's notorious Evin prison until she appeared in court on November 15.

The award-winning lawyer, renowned for her defence of several offenders on death row for murder under the age of 18, had also been on hunger strike for several weeks after her arrest.

"Her interrogators threatened that she would not get less than 10 years but we didn't believe such a verdict would be issued," her husband said. "People like Nasrin should be thanked for their work for children and women.

"Our son will be 14 and our daughter will be 22 when she is out of jail," he lamented.

Scores of Iranian political activists, journalists, reformists and opposition supporters have been sentenced to long jail terms for participating in anti-government demonstrations after the June 2009 presidential poll.