The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN Canada is seriously concerned for the health of prominent writer, journalist and lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who is said to be very weak as a result of a hunger strike. Nasrin Sotoudeh is serving a six-year prison sentence for her criticism of the government and defense of human rights. PEN protests her detention, and demands her immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory. It further demands that all restrictions against her family are immediately lifted, and her full visitation rights restored as a matter of urgency.
According to PEN’s information, Nasrin Sotoudeh started a hunger strike on October 17, to protest her prison conditions and restrictions placed on her family, in particular a travel-ban placed on her twelve-year-old daughter. Her health is rapidly deteriorating and concerns for her welfare are mounting.
Sotoudeh was arrested on September 4, 2010 and sentenced to 11 years in prison. The sentence for “propaganda against the regime”, “acting against national security” and “violating the Islamic dress code (Hijab) in a filmed speech” was later reduced, to six years in jail and a ban on practising law for ten years. Sotoudeh was charged following critical interviews that she gave to overseas media following the disputed June 2009 presidential election, and for her membership of the Association of Human Rights Defenders.
Sotoudeh, 49, is a mother of two young children aged 6 and 12. She has been held in Tehran’s Evin Prison since her arrest, for much of the time in solitary confinement. In the two years that she has been behind bars she has been granted very limited access to her family, in violation of the Iranian Penal Code, and has staged several hunger strikes to protest her illegal treatment in prison. Her health has been significantly weakened as a result, and her life is now believed to be at risk.
Nasrin Sotoudeh is best known as a human rights lawyer and activist, but has also worked as a journalist for several reformist newspapers including Jame’e. Since qualifying as a lawyer in 2003, she has specialised in women’s and children’s rights, and has continued to write articles on these issues. Many of her articles have been rejected for publication, including a report written for a special issue of Daricheh on women’s rights for the occasion of March 8 (Women’s Day) 2010. Following the launch of the One Million Signatures Campaign for the Repeal of Discriminatory Laws in August 2006 by several leading Iranian women activists, and the widespread growth of the women’s rights movement in Iran, she has represented many women’s rights activists including Parvin Ardalan, a well-known PEN case. She is a close associate of exiled lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, and has represented many imprisoned Iranian opposition activists arrested in the crackdown that followed the disputed presidential elections of June 12, 2009.
In October 2012, Nasrin Sotoudeh and the Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi were jointly awarded the European Union’s annual Sakharov Prize for dedication to the defence of human rights and freedom of thought.
Please send appeals:
Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic
His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei,
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic of Iran.
Head of the Judiciary
Ayatollah Sadeqh Larijani
Howzeh Riyasat-e Qoveh Qazaiyeh (Office of the Head of the Judiciary)
Pasteur St., Vali Asr Ave., south of Serah-e Jomhouri
Islamic Republic of Iran.
His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: Via Foreign Ministry: +98 21 6 674 790
(mark: “Please forward to H.E. President Ahmadinejad“)
Photo credit: Rita Leistner (from PEN Canada’s Day of the Imprisoned Writer action in 2011)