Iran approves 3-day release for jailed lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh

Nasrin Sotoudeh is serving a decadeslong prison sentence on charges related to her work as a human rights defender.

al-monitor People gather outside the Iranian Embassy in France on June 13, 2019, to support Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and demand her release. Photo by FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP via Getty Images.

Jan 8, 2021

Iran has granted a three-day medical release for internationally renowned human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, her husband said Friday. 

"Nasrin came on medical leave for three days a few hours ago to continue her treatment," Reza Khandan tweeted, along with a picture of him and Sotoudeh. 

The 57-year-old Iranian attorney is serving a more than 30-year prison sentence after her March 2019 conviction on seven charges related to her legal work, which included defending Iranian women arrested for taking off their hijabs. She must serve 12 years before she is eligible for parole. 

Sotoudeh's health has deteriorated in prison, and her husband says she suffers from chronic gastrointestinal and foot issues. In August, Sotoudeh launched a 45-day hunger strike — her second since her June 2018 jailing — to protest the detention of other political prisoners. She was hospitalized the next month due to heart and respiratory problems. 

On Nov. 7, the prosecutor’s office ordered her temporary release from the Qarchak women’s prison on medical grounds. After Sotoudeh tested positive for COVID-19, she was granted a two-week release extension before she was returned to the notorious prison Dec. 2. 

In November, a group of United Nations human rights experts called for Sotoudeh’s immediate release and urged Iran to quash her convictions. 

“Sotoudeh’s convictions and prison sentences still stand despite a multitude of evidence that shows the arbitrary, unlawful and disproportionate nature of these decisions,” the UN experts wrote. 

Sotoudeh’s human rights work has long been a thorn in the side of Iran’s authorities. She was imprisoned between 2010 and 2013 on charges of “spreading propaganda against the system” and “acting against national security.” 

Iran is holding a number of high-profile prisoners on charges rights groups and foreign governments describe as politically motivated. The United States has repeatedly called on Iran to release Iranian Americans Morad Tahbaz and Siamak and Baquer Namazi. Australian British academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert was freed in November.

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