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Is Iran Afraid Of A 12-Year-Old Girl?

  • Golnaz Esfandiari

Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent lawyer who defended political activists, opposition members, and juvenile offenders on death row, has been in jail since September 2010.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent lawyer who defended political activists, opposition members, and juvenile offenders on death row, has been in jail since September 2010.

A court in Tehran has banned the 12-year-old daughter of jailed Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh from leaving Iran.

Sotoudeh's husband, Reza Khandan, who was also banned from traveling abroad, tells RFE/RL's Radio Farda that the court did not provide any reason for its decision. It can be appealed within 20 days.

Khandan argues that even if his daughter, Mehraveh, has committed a crime, she should have been summoned to a court for minors.

He describes the ruling as "unexpected," especially since he and his daughter were not planning to travel outside the Islamic republic.

"During the week I spend three of four days going to the prison and to different judicial authorities to follow up on the case of my wife," Khandan says.

"Once a week we visit her at the prison, so we really don't even have time for a longer trip inside the country, let alone traveling outside the country. Also, as long my wife is here, we don't have any [reason] to travel outside Iran."

A 'Judicial Disaster'

Iran has a long track record of preventing political activists from foreign travel and of official harassment directing at the relatives of political prisoners, rights activists, and members of the media.

The travel ban for Sotoudeh's daughter, however, marks the first time that the Islamic republic has targeted a minor child of a prisoner of conscience, according to Hadi Ghaemi of the U.S.-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

Ghaemi, whose organization was the first to post the court order regarding Sotoudeh's daughter, says the measure is clearly meant to increase pressure on the jailed lawyer.

"In my view, this means that those in the security bodies who are determined to bring Sotoudeh to her knees are now targeting her daughter," Ghaemi says, describing the court ruling as a "judicial disaster."

'Fearless' Fighter For Rights

Sotoudeh, a prominent lawyer who defended political activists, opposition members, and juvenile offenders on death row, has been in jail since September 2010.

She was sentenced to six years in prison and banned from working as a lawyer for 10 years on charges that include acting against Iran's national security and spreading propaganda against the Islamic regime.

Sotoudeh had originally been sentenced to 10 years in prison and to a 20-year ban on working as a lawyer before an appeal court reduced her sentence.

Even in prison, the 47-year-old mother of two has remained defiant by going repeatedly on hunger strike to protest her detention and alleged ill-treatment.

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, a close colleague of Sotoudeh who has been campaigning for her release, wrote in a 2011 commentary in the British newspaper "The Guardian" that the Iranian government is afraid of Sotoudeh for "shining a light on the deplorable human rights situation in Iran."

"Nasrin is fearless in taking on cases that other lawyers carefully avoid, and for that she has earned respect around the globe," wrote Ebadi, who was also previously represented by Sotoudeh in court.

Before her arrest, Sotoudeh told RFE/RL that Iranian authorities are seeking to make it impossible for her and other human rights lawyers to take up sensitive political and human rights cases.

RFE/RL's Radio Farda broadcaster Hossein Ghavimi contributed to this report

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