Iran rights lawyer jailed for 10 extra years

Nasrin Sotoudeh, who had taken on the cases of women arrested for appearing in public without headscarves, also sentenced to 148 lashes

Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh in her office in Tehran, Iran, on November 1, 2008. (AP/Arash Ashourinia)
Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh in her office in Tehran, Iran, on November 1, 2008. (AP/Arash Ashourinia)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh has been sentenced to an extra 10 years in jail on top of the five-year term she is already serving, her husband said Tuesday.

Sotoudeh is an award-winning rights activist who was arrested last June and told she had been found guilty in absentia of espionage charges and sentenced to five years.

The new 10-year sentence was the longest of seven verdicts totaling 33 years bundled together and communicated to Sotoudeh in prison, according to her husband, Reza Khandan.

“But only the longest sentence will be served, which is ‘encouraging corruption and debauchery and providing the means,'” he told AFP by telephone.

Reza Khandan, husband of Iranian human rights activist, on November 18, 2012. (CC BY-SA Hosseinronaghi, Wikimedia Commons)

He said Sotoudeh had also been sentenced to a total of 148 lashes for appearing in court without the hijab Islamic head covering and for another offense.

She had been found guilty of “colluding against the system, propaganda against the system… disrupting public order” and several other counts.

On Monday, a judge at Tehran’s Revolutionary Court said Sotoudeh had been sentenced in her latest conviction to five years for colluding against the system and two years for insulting Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

But Khandan said that to the best of his knowledge his wife had not been charged with insulting the leader.

‘Beyond barbaric’

The United Nations’ top expert on human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, said the reported conviction was “a crystal-clear illustration of an increasingly severe state response.”

“There is an increasing concern that the civil space for human rights lawyers and defenders is being reduced,” he told journalists in Geneva.

Amnesty International condemned the latest case against Sotoudeh as an “outrageous injustice” and called for her immediate and unconditional release.

“Nasrin Sotoudeh has dedicated her life to defending women’s rights and speaking out against the death penalty — it is utterly outrageous that Iran’s authorities are punishing her for her human rights work,” it said.

The United States, which has made Iran its biggest foe in the Middle East, said it condemned the sentence “in the strongest possible terms.”

State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino (Screen capture: YouTube)

“This sentence is beyond barbaric,” added deputy State Department spokesman Robert Palladino.

Before her arrest, Sotoudeh, 55, had taken on the cases of several women arrested for appearing in public without headscarves in protest at the mandatory dress code in force in Iran.

Sotoudeh won the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov Prize in 2012 for her work on high-profile cases, including those of convicts on death row for offences committed as minors.

She spent three years in prison after representing dissidents arrested during mass protests in 2009 against the disputed re-election of ultra-conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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