Iran: human rights lawyer ends hunger strike

Iranian lawyer and prominent human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh on Dec. 4 ended a 49-day hunger strike in protest of her prison conditions and a travel ban imposed on her family. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay had expressed concern for Sotoudeh's deteriorating health and urged the Iranian government to lift the travel ban, saying it was not justified by international law. After judicial authorities agreed to lift the travel ban on Sotoudeh's daughter, Sotoudeh ended her strike. Sotoudeh was sentenced in January 2011 to 11 years in prison after being found guilty of "acting against national security" and "making propaganda against the system" for which she will serve five and one years, respectively. The remaining five years of her sentence result from allegations that she was a member of the Human Rights Defenders Center, an organization originally founded by Shirin Ebadi and four other Iranian lawyers, many of whom have also been detained or otherwise punished for their work. In addition to her prison term, Sotoudeh's punishment also requires that she refrain from leaving the country or practicing law for the next 20 years. Sotoudeh has spent a large part of her detention in solitary confinement.

Sotoudeh is most widely known for representing political activists following the controversial 2009 presidential election and has worked on several high-profile cases. She was the lawyer for Arash Rahmanipour, who was arrested for his role in the post-election protests on charges ofmohareb, or being an enemy of God. Rahmanipour was executed in January 2010. Sotoudeh also represented Isa Saharkhiz, a well-known press activist who was sentenced to four years in prison in 2006 for "publishing articles against the constitution and offending the state media" (i.e. speaking out against "one-man rule" in Iran, a reference to Ayatollah Khamenei, and criticizing Ahmadinejad).

From Jurist, Dec. 5. Used with permission.

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