Top Iran rights lawyer jailed for 11 years: family

10th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Prominent Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh has been sentenced to 11 years in jail and banned for 20 years from working as an attorney and leaving the country, her husband told AFP on Monday.

"They told my wife's lawyer yesterday that she has been sentenced to 11 years in jail and banned for 20 years from working as a lawyer and leaving Iran," Reza Khandan said. "It is so shocking."

He said Sotoudeh, who has been in jail since September, was found guilty of acting against national security, propaganda against the regime and membership of the Human Rights Defenders' Centre, a rights group headed by Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi.

The accusations were levelled against Sotoudeh, a 45-year-old mother of two, mainly over interviews with foreign-based media about her clients jailed after Iran's disputed June 2009 presidential election, Khandan said.

Sotoudeh represented Ebadi, who left Iran on the eve of the vote, and her family as well as Issa Saharkhiz, a journalist and aide to opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi and Heshmat Tabarzadi, a vocal secular democracy activist.

She was also the lawyer of Arash Rahmani-Pour, a 20-year-old man who was executed in January 2010 along with another man for membership in a monarchist group and for being a "mohareb", or an enemy of God.

Sotoudeh complained that she had been prevented from attending his trial and that she had learned about the execution after it was carried out.

"She talked about the cases she was handling and informed the public sometimes of the flaws in the case. She did not insult anybody and never said anything harsh. This is not a crime," Khandan said.

"Where in the world do they jail a mother for giving a couple of interviews?" he asked.

There has been a chorus of international calls on Iran to free Sotoudeh, who was arrested on September 4 and was reportedly held in solitary confinement in Tehran's notorious Evin prison until she appeared in court on November 15.

Condemning the ruling, France called for Iran to release both Sotoudeh and Shiva Nazar-Ahari, who was sentenced on Saturday to four years in jail and 74 lashes on charges of "waging war against God."

The sentences were "deeply shocking," the French foreign ministry said. They were part of a "systematic repression of human rights," especially of women.

Germany joined the condemnations.

"It was with alarm that I learnt of the appalling judgments" against the two women, said Markus Loening, who is in charge of human rights for the German government and authorised to speak on behalf of Berlin.

"These sentences are the visible tip of the iceberg, at a time when for months we have observed systematic actions in Iran against defenders of human rights," he said.

Two German journalists have been detained in Iran since October in connection with the case of an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery.

In the Sotoudeh case, Ebadi demonstrated in December outside the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva calling for her release.

The award-winning lawyer, renowned for her defence of several offenders on death row for murder under the age of 18, also went on hunger strike for several weeks after her arrest.

Scores of Iranian political activists, journalists, reformists and opposition supporters have been sentenced to long jail terms for participating in anti-government demonstrations after the 2009 presidential election.

© 2011 AFP

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