Two weeks after a Euroepan Parliament delegation met with Nasrin Sotoudeh in Tehran to present the 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the human rights lawyer’s home has been ransacked and looted in the family’s absence.
The European Parliament delegation’s December 13 meeting with the two recipients of the 2012 Sakharov Freedom of Thought Prize, Nasrin Sotoudeh, and Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, inside the Greek Embassy in Tehran faced harsh criticism by conservative Iranian officials.
Nasrin Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, posted a photograph of one of their rooms on Facebook and and wrote:
“It’s been two hours since we returned home after a one-day trip to attend the funeral ceremonies of one of our relatives who died in a car crash two days ago. In addition to the frightened faces of the kids and their aunt and the broken door to our apartment, here’s a picture of a corner of one of the rooms, showing the room ransacked like this. We haven’t yet been able to list the things that were taken. Almost nothing of value remains in our home.
How related is this incident with the recent uproar [pertaining to Sotoudeh's meeting with the European delegation] remains to be seen pending the Police and the security forces’ will to pursue the matter and finding the perpetrators.
Everybody knows that the Police and the Investigative Unit of the Police and all kinds of different security and judicial organizations in this country have the power and the authority to be able to find the perpetrators in 48 hours.We will wait for them to announce the results of their actions.”
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran condemns violation of Nasrin Sotoudeh’s private domain and the raid on her home and urges the Iranian government to immediately identify the perpetrators of this violent act on Sotoudeh’s home and property. “While Mr. Rouhani has presented his draft Citizenship Rights Charter for discussions and feedback by activists, it is astonishing to observe the simultaneous violation of the citizens’ most basic rights. Mr. Rouhani’s government must immediately bring the perpetrators of this unfortunate act to justice,” said Hadi Ghaemi, Executive Director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
The raid comes after sharp criticism by hardliners within Iran’s Parliament who could not tolerate the European Parliament delegation’s meeting with Sotoudeh and Panahi, whom they identify as supporters of the 2009 protests against the disputed presidential election. Both Sotoudeh and Panahi have been prosecuted and sentenced to long prison terms and bans on their professional activities. The hardliners refer to the two dissidents as “seditionists.
Alaeddin Boroujerdi, Chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security Commission reacted by saying that the European Parliament Delegation did not have authorization for the visit. Another member of the National Security Commission, Javad Karimi Ghdousi, also said that Foreign Minister Javad Zarif must appear before the Commission in order to answer questions about the visit.
Mohammad Javad Montazeri, head of Iran’s Administrative Justice Court, said that, “a group under the name of European Parliament Delegation came to Iran and while these delegations are usually about trade issues, they secretly met with two people who were convicted during the 2009 ‘Sedition’ [the Islamic Republic officials' way of referring to the 2009 post-election public protests]. It must be clarified who facilitated the basis for this visit?” He called those who had facilitated the visit “traitors.”
Kazem Jalali, another member of the Parliament revealed during a television interview that the Iranian Foreign Ministry had previously informed the Iranian Parliament about the European delegation’s request to meet with Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi.
The negative reactions from the officials triggered the Iranian Foreign Ministry to summon the Greek Charges d’Affaires and to simultaneously issue a statement to express Iran’s displeasure with an act the Iranian Foreign Ministry describes as “contrary to good faith,” and “despite earlier warnings from the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Embassy in Brussels as well as the officials of the related offices within the Foreign Ministry.”
Nasrin Sotoudeh, lawyer and human rights activist and winner of the 2012 Sakharov Prize, was in prison since September 2010. She was sentenced to 11 years in prison, 20 years’ ban on her legal practice, and 20 years’ ban on foreign travel on charges of “acting against national security, collusion and propaganda against the regime, and membership in the Defenders of Human Rights Center.” An appeals court later reduced her sentence to six years in prison. She was also separately sentenced to cash fines for failing to observe the Islamic hejab, or head-covering. Sotoudeh was released in September 2013.
Homes and telephone lines of political dissidents are routinely watched and monitored by Iran’s powerful security organizations. It is doubtful that security organizations did not keep on eye on the comings and goings to the Sotoudeh residence in Tehran. The raid and looting is reminiscent of similar incidents, such as in January 2009, when at the end of a long struggle with the 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi, local police stood by and allowed a group of 150 “demonstrators” to attack her home and offices. In September 2010, there were also attacks on the 2009 presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi’s home by dozens of armed plainclothes forces. The attacks took place over three days and resulted in graffiti, vandalism, broken windows, and shootings inside Karroubi’s home. In that incident, also, the police did nothing to stop the perpetrators.