Iranian Rights Lawyer Sotoudeh Faces Long Prison Term, Lashes

Iranian Human Rights Lawyer Sentenced to '38 Years in Prison 148 Lashes'

"It is absolutely shocking that Nasrin Sotoudeh is facing almost four decades in jail and 148 lashes for her peaceful human rights work, including her defence of women protesting against Iran's degrading forced hijab (veil) laws".

Iran should immediately free prominent human rights lawyer and defender Nasrin Sotoudeh from jail pending a review of her conviction and sentence, say United Nations human rights experts*. She began a hunger strike on August 23 from her cell at the Evin Prison to protest against the charges, according to Deutsche Welle.

She was jailed in 2010 for spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security - charges she denied - and was released after serving half her six-year term.

In an open letter to the Iranian people, and sent by one of the authors to VOA Persia for publication, the group of 16 jurists emphasizes that the sentence violates the commitments enshrined in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic on the subject of human rights and due process.

It's not clear why the judge in the case is saying the sentence is seven years when it appears to be 38, but in either case, this is ridiculous punishment for trumped-up charges. After another trial, the court sentenced her to a total of 38 years and 148 lashes. She was also sentenced to 148 lashes, he said.

"I don't know how many years she got for each of the charges because my conversation with Nasrin only lasted a few minutes and we didn't get to the details", the center quoted Khandan as saying.

In 2011, Ms. Sotoudeh was the subject of an Opinion by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concerning her earlier arrest and conviction.

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It said there were no grounds to justify the restriction of her rights and noted a number of violations of worldwide standards relating to the right to a fair trial.

Iran, often accused of human rights abuse, said on Monday it had allowed UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore to visit last week at the head of a "technical mission".

"Lawyers play an essential role in ensuring the protection of human rights". He said Iran's ambassador in Oslo would also be called in to account for the treatment of Sotoudeh, who has specialized in defending women's rights in Iran.

In the letter, posted online by the Iranian Human Rights Activist News Agency, the signatories claim that the sentence is "a source of shame" and "shows a lack of tolerance in dealing with" lawyers "critical of the system".

The condemnation of the lawyer and activist has raised an indignant response from most of the global community, including human rights NGOs and various Western chancelleries.

The UN experts have notified the Government of Iran about their concerns.

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