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Prominent human rights lawyer, journalist and writer sentenced to 11 years in prison

(WiPC/IFEX) - 12 January 2011 - The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International condemns the eleven-year sentence handed down on 9 January 2011 to prominent writer, journalist and lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. She was also banned from practicing law and from leaving the country for twenty years. PEN International considers that she is sentenced solely for the peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party, and calls for her immediate and unconditional release.


According to PEN's information, the eleven-year sentence was delivered by Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court on 9 January 2011. The sentence comprises one year imprisonment for "propaganda against the regime", and a total of ten years for the two charges of "acting against national security" and "violating the Islamic dress code (Hijab) in a filmed speech". She is believed to be charged for critical interviews she gave to overseas media following the disputed June 2009 presidential election, and for her membership of the Association of Human Rights Defenders. Her lawyer stated that she has twenty days to appeal against the sentence. After the sentence was delivered her husband was summoned for questioning by Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court, allegedly for interviews he had given to the media.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, aged 47 and a mother of two young children, was arrested on 4 September 2010 when she was summoned to the special court in Evin prison on charges of "propaganda against the state", "cooperating with the Association of Human Rights Defenders" and "conspiracy to disturb order". The arrest followed a raid on her home and office by security officers on 29 August 2010, who confiscated her files and documents. Her lawyer was not allowed to represent her in court or accompany her client during questioning. She is held in solitary confinement at Tehran's Evin Prison, where she has been on hunger strike for much of the time since her arrest and concerns for her welfare are mounting. Since her arrest Nasrin Soutadeh has been allowed very limited access to her family, in violation of the Iranian Penal Code which guarantees the right to weekly visits and receive phone calls from relatives.

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 8 March (Women's Day) in 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 unprecedented crackdown on dissent following the disputed presidential elections of 12 June 2009. Arrests are continuing, and many have been handed down lengthy sentences.


Please send appeals:

- condemning the harsh prison sentence handed down to writer, journalist and lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh solely for the peaceful exercise of her right to free expression;
- calling for 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;
- ensuring that she has full access to family visits and any necessary medical care whilst detained;
- seeking assurances of her well-being in detention.


Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic
His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed 'Ali Khamenei,
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Shoahada Street
Qom, 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
Tehran 1316814737
Islamic Republic of Iran

His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
The Presidency,
Palestine Avenue,
Azerbaijan Intersection,
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: Via Foreign Ministry: +98 21 6 674 790
(mark: "Please forward to H.E. President Ahmadinejad")

If possible please send a copy of your appeal to the diplomatic representative for Iran in your country.
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