Nasrin Sotoudeh, an hour after release: “They told me, ‘You are free.’ Other prisoners and lawyers should be released, too”
An hour after her release from prison, human rights lawyer and prisoner of conscience Nasrin Sotoudeh told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, “When they took me out of the prison, they told me, ‘You are free.’ Last night they told four others. They told me that my furlough was approved, but when I came out of the prison door, they told me ‘You are free.’ This is why I didn’t sign the furlough form in which prisoners promise to return after three to four days.”
Nasrin Sotoudeh also told the Campaign that the other imprisoned lawyers must be released as soon as possible, because they are only in prison because they carried out their professional duties. “We wish for everyone to be released, because their imprisonment was a result of that heavy political atmosphere, without a doubt. I was honored to have Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani as my lawyer; he did a lot of hard work for my case. Three of my lawyers were prosecuted, and Mr. Soltani received the heaviest sentence with 13 years in prison along with exile at Borazjan prison. Of course he is still [imprisoned] in Tehran now. According to all international standards, lawyers are immune in carrying out their professional duties, and this is a principle that has been totally ignored and violated in the case of lawyers in Iran. We really want attention to this principle,” she told the Campaign.
Reza Khandan, Nasrin Sotoudeh’s husband, told the Campaign, “My wife was told that she has been released, but she doesn’t know exactly whether this was a conditional release or a pardon. Of course she would have qualified for conditional release, but political prisoners aren’t usually granted conditional release. Usually, when she came to furlough leave, she was informed of how many days she would be on leave, but they just told her ‘You are free’ and brought her home in their car and left.”
Nasrin Sotoudeh, lawyer and human rights activist, repeatedly embarked on hunger strikes to protest her conditions, and was transferred to solitary confinement. Sotoudeh has been in prison since September 2010. She was sentenced to 11 years in prison, 20 years’ ban on her legal practice, and 20 years’ ban on foreign travel on charges of “acting against national security, collusion and propaganda against the regime, and membership in the Defenders of Human Rights Center.” An appeals court later reduced her sentence to six years in prison. She was also separately sentenced to cash fines for failing to observe the Islamic hejab, or head-covering.
The release of Nasrin Sotoudeh and several other political prisoners takes place as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani prepares to travel next week to attend the UN General Assembly’s 68th session in New York. In past years, international media have questioned Iranian officials about the conditions of political prisoners and the suppressive atmosphere inside Iran during their New York trips.