Iran: PEN Welcomes Temporary Release of Nasrin Sotoudeh

Iran: Temporary release of Nasrin Sotoudeh welcomed while calls for her unconditional release continue

PEN is delighted to learn of the temporary release of prominent Iranian writer, lawyer and human rights activist, Nasrin Sotoudeh, on November 7,  2020. However as there remains the threat that she may be required to return to prison at a later stage, PEN International is continuing to call for the charges against her to be dropped, that her release be made unconditional and that she not be returned to prison.

On November 7, 2020, Nasrin Sotoudeh was unexpectedly released from prison to re-join her family in Tehran. Iran’s judicial authority’s Mizan Online news agency is reported as stating that “Nasrin Sotoudeh went on furlough with the agreement of the assistant superintendent of the women’s prison”.

In a statement released on Twitter, Nasrin Sotoudeh thanks friends and human rights activists for their support: “With your love and care, I have returned home on medical leave to pursue my treatments. Every day that I spend out of prison I am waiting to hear the news of the release of all political prisoners. I’d like to express my gratitude for all national and international organisations in Iran and abroad, Bar associations in various countries, human rights organisations as well as different individuals such as artists, writers, politicians, civil rights activists, defenders of human rights, news outlets and my dear colleagues around the world. It is because of your love and support that political prisoners can endure prison. Hoping for the release of all political prisoners, Nasrin Sotoudeh.”

PEN International Centres world-wide have been campaigning for Nasrin Sotoudeh’s release for over a decade.  She was previously arrested in 2010 and sentences to 11 years of in prison 2011 on similar charges. She was released in 2013. She was again imprisoned in June 2018 and subsequently handed over 38 years in prison and 148 lashes for national security-related offences.  Her ‘crime’ was to defend women prosecuted for appearing in public without a headscarf, or hijab. She was charged with spreading propaganda against the state, insulting the country’s supreme leader and spying. In August 2020 she underwent a six-week hunger strike in protest at the treatment of political detainees.

PEN International’s most recent alerts on behalf of Nasrin Sotoudeh can be found here.


PEN International is alarmed about the large number of writers and activists in Iran who have been detained or imprisoned solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression. Lawyers such as Nasrin Sotoudeh are doing invaluable human rights work by representing suppressed voices in a time of a judicial crackdown on civil society in Iran.

PEN International’s 2019 Case List includes a number of writers in prison and on trial in Iran. This is in violation of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s obligations under international human rights law, mainly through restricting the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. PEN International’s concerns for these imprisoned writers is made more acute considering the health threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and reports of violence in prisons.

Photo credit: Rita Leistner