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US slams 'unjust' verdict against Iran rights lawyer


The United States condemned as "unjust" Monday a guilty verdict in Iran against a prominent human rights lawyer, calling it part of a systematic attempt to silence defenders of democracy and human rights.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, 45, who was jailed in September for talking to foreign media, was sentenced to 11 years in jail and banned for 20 years from working as an attorney and leaving the country, her husband told AFP.

"The United States strongly condemns the unjust and harsh verdict against human rights activist and respected lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh in Iran, and calls for her immediate release," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in a statement.

Calling Sotoudeh "a strong voice for rule of law and justice in Iran," Crowley said the United States was "dismayed by her continued detention and loss of the right to practice law."

"Her conviction is part of a systematic attempt on the part of Iranian authorities to silence the defense of democracy and human rights in Iran," he said.

"It is one in a series of harsh sentences targeting the lawyers of Iran's human rights community which perseveres despite threats, torture, and imprisonment," he said.

Sotoudeh, the mother of two, represented Nobel Laureate and lawyer Shirin Ebadi 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.

She was also the lawyer of Arash Rahmani-Pour, a 20-year-old man who was executed in January 2010 along with another man for membership in a monarchist group and for being a "mohareb," or an enemy of God.

Sotoudeh complained that she had been prevented from attending his trial and that she had learned about the execution after it was carried out.