Reza Khandan and Nasrin Sotoudeh

Imprisoned lawyer and human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh returned to Evin Prison on Monday, January 21, after a brief furlough that began January 17.

Authorities had earlier told Sotoudeh that she would be granted a long furlough, but she was summoned to Evin Prison after only three days. Several other political prisoners have also been released on furlough over the past few days, including student activist Bahareh Hedayat; journalists Bahman Ahmadi Amouee, Ahmad Zeidabadi, Mahsa Amrabadi, and Massoud Bastani; and lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah.

After Sotoudeh’s return to prison, her husband Reza Khandan wrote on his Facebook page that he suspected the urgency for Sotoudeh’s return to prison was related to news about a visit from members of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security Commission to Evin Prison. Khandan asks rhetorically on his Facebook page why Sotoudeh was extended a furlough to begin with and replies, “We can understand that it would have been better for Nasrin not to be inside the prison on the day of the visit by the MP’s. But immediately after the visit ended, she had to be returned to prison urgently.”

The three-day furlough was made possible through a 300 million–toman bail (approximately US$86,000). Reza Khandan announced earlier that he had submitted a request to judicial authorities for an extension to his wife’s furlough, so that she may improve her physical health, and they had agreed to extend her furlough. Even so, she was summoned to Evin Prison on Monday night.

Nasrin Sotoudeh was arrested on September 4, 2010. A lower court sentenced her to 11 years in prison, 20 years’ ban on her legal practice, and 20 years’ ban on foreign travel. An appeals court reduced her sentence to six years in prison and 10 years’ ban on her legal practice. She is currently serving her sentence at Evin Prison’s Women’s Ward. She has repeatedly embarked on hunger strikes during her imprisonment to protest violations of her rights. Her last hunger strike commenced on October 17, 2012, in protest of the foreign travel ban imposed on her 12-year-old daughter Mehraveh and the pressure placed on her family. Her family repeatedly asked for a medical furlough for her treatment. Sotoudeh was transferred to solitary confinement on October 31. No reasons were ever given for her transfer. She was transferred back to the General Ward on November 21. She finally broke her hunger strike on December 4, after authorities lifted her daughter’s travel ban.

Over the past few days, other political prisoners, including Bahareh Hedayat, Bahman Ahmadi Amouee, Ahmad Zeidabadi, Massoud Bastani, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, and Mahsa Amrabadi have also been released on furlough. Bahman Ahmadi Amouee is a journalist who was arrested in the aftermath of the 2009 elections. He was released from Rajaee Shahr Prison on January 22. Bahman Ahmadi Amouee, a journalist who worked for reformist newspapers, was sentenced to five years in prison and transferred from Evin Prison to Rajaee Shahr Prison. His wife Jila Zaniyaghub remains inside Evin Prison’s Women’s Ward. Bahman Ahmadi Amouee was the recipient of the Hellman-Hammett Award in 2011.

Mahsa Amrabadi, a journalist who worked on the political beat for reformist newspapers is currently serving her one-year sentence at Evin Prison. She was released on January 22 for a short furlough. Amrabadi is married to another journalist, Massoud Bastani who is serving a six-year prison term at Rajaee Shahr Prison. Massoud Bastani was also among those released on furlough January 22.

Student activist Bahareh Hedayat was released on medical furlough on January 17 to take care of kidney and gallbladder stones. Hedayat was released on 700 million–toman (approximately US$200,000) bail. Her husband, Amin Ahmadian, wrote on his Facebook page that his wife is not allowed any visits or interviews during her furlough, and that the authorities have agreed to allow her a longer furlough if she refrains from any interviews, activities, political visits, or appearances at political gatherings. Bahareh Hedayat is a student activist, a member of the Central Council of Daftar Tahkim Vahdat Student Organization, and an activist with the One Million Signatures Campaign. She is serving a 10-year sentence after her arrest in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 presidential election.

Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, a lawyer and human rights activist, was released on furlough on Thursday, January 10. In July 2011, Dadkhah was sentenced to nine years in prison and a 10-year ban on his legal practice and his teaching posts on charges of “membership in the Defenders of Human Rights Center,” “interviewing with foreign media,” and representing the case of Isfahan Metro. An appeals court reduced his sentence to eight years in prison. Dadkhah began serving his sentence on September 29, 2012, at Evin Prison’s Ward 350.

Ahmad Zeidabadi, a prominent Iranian journalist and political activist who was arrested the day after the disputed June 2009 presidential election and sentenced to six years in prison at Rajaee Shahr Prison in Karaj, is also among those released today, January 22. In November, Zeidabadi was transferred to a Tehran hospital after six months of severe illness and repeated requests by his family for medical treatment. He returned to prison on December 5, when his medical furlough was not extended.