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Iranian Lawyer Released After Five Years In Prison

Nasser Zarafshan (undated file photo) (Courtesy Photo) March 16, 2007 (RFE/RL) --A prominent Iranian lawyer, Nasser Zarafshan, who represented families of political activists murdered by personnel of the Ministry of Intelligence, has been released from prison after serving a five-year term, Radio Farda reported.

"I have the same stand and position I had [before] and not only me but public opinion, people, and society were aware that the whole issue was fabricated," Zarafshan told Radio Farda after his release today. "The explanation [the authorities] provided was childish. It was not acceptable for me -- I knew where I was standing. Nor did the society accept it."

Zarafshan was sentenced to prison and lashes in 2002 on charges of "disseminating state secrets" and "possession of firearm and alcohol."

Human Rights groups had condemned his arrest and imprisonment and said the charges against him were fabricated by the authorities to punish him for his human rights advocacy.

Many activists in Iran and groups outside Iran had called for the unconditional release of Zarafshan, who is the 2004 Recipient of American PEN's Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award.

"Now I want to live my life," Zarafshan said when asked about his current plans. "I will stand by my rights. If I didn't want to stand by my rights, then I wouldn't be jailed for five years. Therefore, I will now do the same things I did before. I think this is how a person remains strong and how one can defend his deeds in front of others and everywhere. Therefore, I will do as before. I say -- honesty and truth. I say -- freedom. And [I say] people should have the right to determine their fate."

(with material from, Student Committee of Human Rights Reporters)

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