Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 June 2019

Iranian human rights lawyer sentenced to 38 years in jail and lashes

Nasrin Sotoudeh previously served six years for allegedly conspiring to harm state security

Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh in 2008 poses for a photograph in her office in Tehran, Iran. AP
Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh in 2008 poses for a photograph in her office in Tehran, Iran. AP

A jailed Iranian human rights lawyer has been sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes, after hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi was appointed the new head of the judiciary.

Nasrin Sotoudeh's husband on Monday announced the sentence through Facebook, without specifying what charges her wife faced.

Ms Sotoudeh had previously served about half of a six-year jail sentence imposed in 2010 for allegedly spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security – charges she denied. In 2012 she embarked on a 50-day hunger strike against a travel ban on her daughter. She was finally freed in 2013.

In 2018 she represented a group of women who had removed their headscarves in public to protest the country's Islamic dress code for women.

Ms Sotoudeh is just one of a number of human rights advocates targeted in a government crackdown since the beginning of 2018, according to Human Rights Watch. “Especially when it comes to cases of human rights defenders like Nasrin Sotoudeh, Iranian authorities blatantly disregard due process rights,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, last year. “Apparently what authorities fear greatly is advocating respect for human rights.”

Ms Sotoudeh's lawyer, Payam Derafshan, told the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) in December that Sotoudeh – arrested last June – had been charged with spreading information against the state, insulting Iran's Supreme Leader and spying.

Her case then caused an international outcry in which the United States and the human rights group Amnesty International criticised the Islamic Republic.

“Now Iran is not only arresting dissidents, human rights defenders, and labour leaders," Michael Page of Human Rights Watch said in December. "Their lawyers as well, criminalising their fundamental freedoms. Lawyers should be the cornerstone of protecting the rights of the accused, but in Iran, they are just another enemy of repressive authorities.”

According to the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, they must be allowed to carry out their “without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference” and do so with freedom of expression.

Updated: March 11, 2019 06:50 PM

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