Ebadi Declares “ Sotoudeh’s Life in Danger after 103 days of Solitary Confinement”

Women’s Rights Activists to Join Sit-in

Nasrin Sotoudeh

(17 December 2010) Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi announced a sit-in in front of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva today to demand the release of her embattled colleague in Iran, Nasrin Sotoudeh. The sit-in will start on 20 December.

Sotoudeh, 47, is a prominent human rights lawyer who has been held in solitary confinement for the past 103 days and is reportedly on hunger strike. She has been bravely outspoken in defense of her clients, particularly since the disputed June 2009 presidential election.

Ebadi was joined in her announcement by Iranian women’s rights activists recently forced into exile, including: Khadijeh Moghaddam, Mansoureh Shojaee, Parvin Ardalan, Asieh Amini, Shadi Sadr, and Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran expressed its support and solidarity and called on the Iranian Judiciary to immediately release Sotoudeh. The Campaign also strongly urged the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, to immediately engage Iranian officials and demand the immediate release of Sotoudeh.

“Sotoudeh’s condition is deteriorating with each passing day and her interrogators, ignoring her well-being, continue to violate the law. Since the Judiciary has unfortunately lost its independence and become a tool of intelligence and security agents, disregard for Sotoudeh’s health led to her transfer to the hospital,” Ebadi said in an interview with the Campaign.

“We, a group of women’s rights activists who have been forced abroad following the conditions after the disputed 2009 election, decided to stage this sit-in, since there is no space for any action inside Iran,” she added.

In their announcement, the group noted that Sotoudeh has been in solitary confinement for 103 days and her health is in danger due to a hunger strike. They called for her immediate release according to Iranian law that states a defendant whose investigation has been completed cannot be held for more than seven days and should be released on bail.

Security forces detained Sotoudeh on 4 September 2010 and have held her in solitary confinement under intense interrogations. She has been charged with “propaganda against the state,” and “acting against national security.” Her trial was held on 15 and 28 November but no sentence has been issued. Authorities recently added the charge of “not observing Islamic dress code” in relation to a videotaped message Sotoudeh made in 2008.

Recently, Mohammad Javad Larijani, Iran’s official in charge of human rights, claimed that Sotoudeh’s prosecution is not “due to her being a lawyer,” but because of her interviews in defense of her clients which he labeled as “propaganda against the state.”

Responding to Larijani’s statement, Ebadi told the Campaign, “Before her arrest, intelligence agents called her husband, Reza Khandan, and told him that Sotoudeh must stop representing me or else she will regret it. Sotoudeh responded to them by saying her actions are within the legal framework and she is only doing her job as a lawyer representing me under the law and will not stop her representation.”

In addition to Ebadi, Sotoudeh has represented numerous prisoners of conscience, including women’s rights activists, journalist, and students. The Campaign believes that by targeting Sotoudeh and other human rights defenders, the Iranian Judiciary aims to make it impossible for prisoners of conscience to obtain legal counsel by intimidating lawyers from taking up their cases.

“The entire human rights community in Iran is in great danger. The international community, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights in particular, must stand up for Sotoudeh today before it is too late,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the Campaign’s spokesperson.