Law Society appeals to President Ahmadinejad for release of human rights defender and her husband

Jan 18, 20110 comments

Date Published: 17/01/2011 The Law Society has appealed directly to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to release imprisoned human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and her husband Reza Khandan, who was also arrested and detained today. In September last year Nasrin Sotoudeh was sentenced to 11 years in prison for ‘propaganda against the state’ and was barred from practising law and leaving the country for 20 years. The Law Society has been informed that Reza Khandan was arrested today leaving the couple’s two young children without their parents. Sotoudeh, who worked with juvenile prisoners facing the death penalty and prisoners of conscience, is currently on a hunger strike and there are concerns for her health. In November last year the Chair of the Law Society’s Human Rights Committee Tony Fisher, wrote to President Ahmadinejad and leading members of the Iranian judiciary urging that Sotoudeh be released in the absence of substantial evidence that Sotoudeh may have committed a universally recognised criminal offence. Law Society Chief Executive Desmond Hudson today called on the Iranian President to release Sotoudeh and to protect human rights lawyers in the republic. ‘Nasrin Sotoude and Reza Khandan should be released immediately and the rights of human rights defenders in Iran should be protected. “President Ahmadinejad has an opportunity here to show the world that his Government can respect the rights of its citizens and put an end to the highly publicised detention of this prominent human rights lawyer. “Nasrin is involved in vital work defending the rights of children and juvenile prisoners in Iran. However, prior to sentencing her assets were frozen and she was denied access to her lawyer by the Iranian authorities.” The Law Society is joined in this appeal by Lionel Blackman, chair of the Solicitors’ International Human Rights Group (SIHRG), who called Sotoudeh’s arrest a travesty of justice. Mr Blackman said, “The significance of Sotoudeh’s human rights work has gained recognition in human rights awards in Italy and, more recently, by the Spanish Bar Association last month. She should be freed to be able to carry on her professional activities. There can be no justification whatsoever for keeping her behind bars.” Sotoudeh’s lawyers have until 28 January to appeal the sentence. Ends Notes to editors: On September 1 2010 an article referring to an interview with Sotoudeh, which outlined the pressures the Iranian government was subjecting human rights lawyers to, was published by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. Three days later she was questioned and arrested for “propaganda against the state” and “collusion and gathering with the aim of acting against national security.” In the lead up to Christmas Iranian political and women’s rights activists, including Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, held a sit in protest for Sotoudeh’s release outside United Nations Human Rights headquarters in Geneva, despite extreme weather conditions. Contact: Steve Rudaini, The Law Society +44 (0)20 7316 5624