Reza Khandan, husband of imprisoned Iranian lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, today told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran of disturbing developments in the human rights lawyer’s case. “Unfortunately, when we went to visit Ms. Sotoudeh in prison last week, even though we were never told that she had been barred from having visitors, she did not come [to the visitation hall] until the last minute, and they never told us the reason for it. Her telephone contact has also been suspended. She contacted home every Monday for a month, but now her telephone calls are suspended, too, and we have no information about her conditions,” Khandan told the Campaign.
“The Evin Prison Court has recently asked for a suspension of her license to practice law. According to the lower court’s ruling, Ms. Sotoudeh has been sentenced to 20 years’ ban on legal profession. If her sentence is upheld in the appeals court, this sentence will commence after she has completed her eleven years in prison. But with the new request by the Evin Prison Court, if her law practice license is revoked, this means that she will not be able to practice law henceforth,” said Reza Khandan about the new development in Sotoudeh’s case.
“Every prisoner is entitled to furlough. If, during her prison term, she is permitted furlough leave, she may want to represent a case herself or through cooperation with her colleagues. But if her legal practice license is suspended, she will no longer be allowed to do this. Of course, it is not clear whether under these circumstances, she would be allowed furlough during her sentence; even so, she could have used the opportunity,” said Sotoudeh’s husband.
Reza Khandan told the Campaign that Sotoudeh’s second trial on charges of “poor Islamic hejab” in a private video was held in a court session in complete silence, without any defense by Sotoudeh. “Last week, the second and last court session for Ms. Sotoudeh’s charge of “poor Islamic hejab” in a private video was held. They didn’t allow us, as her family, to attend, even though the court session was public. Only one of her lawyers, Ms. Parakand attended the session. According to her, Ms. Sotoudeh objected to the way the court session was held again, and did not offer any defense for herself during the session. The court continued its session, regardless, and completed it. Now we await the verdict,” Khandan told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
“After five months and 20 days in prison, she continues to remain inside the security ward and under special circumstances. This is despite the fact that the court reviewing her original charges has been held, and a verdict has been issued. From a legal point of view, there is no reason for her to remain inside the security ward and under special circumstances. Despite her repeated requests, during this time she has been deprived of access to pen and paper. She told the Judge in the last session, as well the recent one, that she needs pen and paper to prepare her defense, so that she can at least write down her thoughts on paper, so that she is able to defend herself in court. But they paid no attention to this,” said Sotoudeh’s husband about the reasons Sotoudeh refuses to defend herself in court.
“The other thing that has caused her to repeatedly object is that her family and other individuals are not allowed to attend her court sessions, despite her trial being public. Anyone can attend these sessions, but even during her last court session, her first-degree family members were prevented from attending,” Reza Khandan told the Campaign about the other reason the prominent lawyer refused to defend herself in court.
“Her visits with her lawyers only take place during her court sessions. Naturally, she only has a few minutes in court to talk to her lawyers, and as soon as they see each other, the session starts. She was only allowed one visit with her lawyers in prison 3.5 months ago,” said Khandan about Sotoudeh’s access to legal counsel.
In regards to the reason for this week’s banned visitation, Sotoudeh’s husband said: “I don’t know the reason for it. This happened once before where she didn’t show up while we were waiting for her, and later she said it was because they wanted to bring her out blindfolded; she objected and did not come. Apparently, there is a long distance between the place they keep the prisoners and the visiting hall. They bring the prisoners blindfolded in a vehicle, which Mrs. Sotoudeh opposed, since according to the law, prisoners should not be blindfolded. She did not come to visit on that day. Now, I don’t know if it is for a similar reason or it is because of some new pressures she is under. I must see her to learn the reason.”
“For now I consider these instances as ordinary events, but if they continue, it would appear to be a new period of pressure on the family. When phone calls and visitation are not permitted, in reality the punishment is double-sided. Both the family and the prisoner are punished–a family that has no charge against it, which must have visitation rights, and the prisoner, who should not suffer these limitations. She is condemned to prison, but not condemned to no contact with her family, and loss of telephone and visitation rights.”