LONDON: Independent human rights and political experts working on behalf of the UN have urged Tehran to release Nasrin Sotoudeh, a lawyer and outspoken defender of human rights in Iran, and decried her recent transfer to another prison under “dire conditions.”
Sotoudeh has been detained since June 2018 and faces a total of 38 years behind bars on nine charges, including “encouraging corruption and prostitution.”
UN experts — including Dubravka Simonovic, special rapporteur on violence against women; and Javaid Rehman, special rapporteur on human rights in Iran — have called on Tehran to release Sotoudeh “as a matter of urgency.”
They said in a joint statement: “Iran must put an end to the criminalisation of Nasrin Sotoudeh for her legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights.”
They added: “Despite our many calls over the years to release Ms. Sotoudeh, Iranian authorities have failed to do so, and instead they have transferred her to another prison, farther away from her family and under dire conditions.”
Sotoudeh was one of Iran’s top lawyers, and previously represented Nobel Peace Prize winners, former senior government officials and many human rights defenders in court.
Since October 2020, she has been detained in the overcrowded and unsanitary Qarchak prison — Iran’s most feared women’s prison.
The facility suffers from a lack of access to healthcare for inmates, insufficient and unhealthy food, and rodent and insect infestations.
While detained, the UN experts said, Sotoudeh’s health has seriously deteriorated and she has tested positive for COVID-19.
They added: “Nasrin Sotoudeh’s case is sadly not isolated, and the severe sentences she has received appear to be intended to silence her work and to intimidate other human rights defenders, including her family.”