Iranian rights lawyer awaiting verdict despite reports of conviction

Iranian rights lawyer awaiting verdict despite reports of conviction
Amnesty International confirm Nasrin Sotoudeh is awaiting her court verdict, contrary to reports circulating that she has been convicted.
3 min read
06 March, 2019
Prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh photographed in 2014 in Tehran [Getty]

Amnesty International has rejected reports that Nasrin Sotoudeh, an award-winning human rights lawyer from Iran who defended protestors against the compulsory headscarf law, has been convicted.

"She is awaiting her court verdict," Amnesty International told The New Arab

Her husband Reza Khandan told New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) that Sotoudeh was convicted on the basis of several charges but had not received the verdict or her sentence in writing.

Sotoudeh was reported to have been convicted in absentia after she refused to attend the trial before Tehran's Revolutionary Court as she was unable to select her own counsel.

Her conviction could result in up to 34 years in prison and 148 lashes. 

She is facing a multitude of charges ranging from "inciting corruption and prositution" and "appearing in public without a hijab" but Amnesty International believe her detention is due to her defence of women who have protested the mandatory hijab.

"No amount of spin will be able to conceal the fact that Sotoudeh is being persecuted for her peaceful defense of human rights in Iran, including a woman's right to choose whether to wear a hijab," said CHRI's Executive Director Hadi Ghaemi.

Sotoudeh's husband Khandan was sentenced to six years in prison in January 2019 for security related charges. One year of his sentence was for propaganda against the system and was related to updates about his wife's case he posted on Facebook.

The conviction follows Sotoudeh's arrest in June 2018. She had worked on the cases of several women arrested for appearing in public without headscarves in protest at the country's mandatory dress code.

She was taken to Evin Prison in Tehran, where was informed she had been convicted in absentia in 2016 to five-years in prison. She was not present at the trial because court authorites refused her entry on the basis that she was not wearing appropriate Islamic dress. 

One of her clients received a 20-year sentence for removing her headscarf. She was arrested alongside 29 others for removing the scarf as pat of a campaign known as "White Wednesays".

Sotoudeh had also spoken out against a criminal code that only allowed a small number of lawyers - just 20 in Tehran - to represent individuals charged with national security crimes.

"Sotoudeh is among at least seven human rights attorneys who were arrested in Iran in 2018 in a widening crackdown aimed at further restricting detainees' right to counsel," said CHRI.

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

Her previous clients also include Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, a famous human rights lawyer who is exiled in London.

She previously spent three years in prison from 2010 to 2013 after representing dissidents arrested during mass protests in 2009 against the disputed re-election of hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

During this time in jail, Sotoudeh staged two hunger strikes in protest at the conditions in Evin and over a ban on seeing her son and daughter. 

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