Iran arrests prominent lawyer at funeral of metro death teen

Iran arrests prominent lawyer at funeral of metro death teen
A prominent lawyer and human rights defender has been arrested by authorities in Iran.
2 min read
Sotoudeh has been arrested several times in recent years [Getty]

Iranian authorities have arrested a prominent lawyer and human rights defender as she attended the funeral of a teenage girl who died after a disputed metro incident, her husband said Monday.

The arrest of 60-year-old Nasrin Sotoudeh took place Sunday in Tehran during the funeral of 17-year-old Armita Garawand, who died a day earlier after nearly a month in intensive care.

Sotoudeh, who was awarded the European Parliament's 2012 Sakharov prize for her human rights work, has been arrested several times in recent years.

"My wife was arrested during the funeral of Armita Garawand along with others," Reza Khandan, Sotoudeh's husband, told AFP, saying she was "violently beaten" during the arrest.

The teenager had been taken to Tehran's Fajr Hospital on 1 October after an incident on the metro which left her in a coma, with sharply diverging views over how she was injured.

She died just over a year after the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, also a young Iranian Kurd, who was arrested by the morality police for allegedly breaching Iran's strict women's dress code in an incident that sparked mass protests.

Local Fars news agency said Sotoudeh "had been arrested and handed over to judicial authorities" for "not wearing a headscarf" and "disturbing the society's mental security."

Covering the neck and head in public has been compulsory for women since 1983, following Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.

Women have been increasingly flouting the Islamic republic's strict dress code since months-long demonstrations which erupted in September last year following Amini's death in custody.

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Amini had previously been arrested for allegedly violating the dress code.

Sotoudeh herself was previously imprisoned in 2018 after defending a woman arrested for demonstrating against the compulsory headscarf in Iran.

Then in 2019, she was sentenced to 12 years in prison on charges of "encouraging corruption and debauchery."

Garawand's case was first reported on October 3 by Kurdish-focused rights group Hengaw, which said she had been critically wounded during an incident on the Tehran metro involving Iran's morality police.

But authorities say she suffered a sudden drop in blood pressure and denied that any "physical or verbal altercations" had taken place.

Metro surveillance footage, which had been broadcast on state television, showed the unveiled teenager being evacuated after apparently fainting in a carriage.