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Iran Blasted For 'Decades-Long' Sentence Handed To Rights Lawyer Sotoudeh

Nasrin Sotoudeh

The United States and human rights groups have strongly criticized the decades-long prison sentence reportedly imposed on Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.

Iranian media on March 11 quoted a judge as saying that Sotoudeh, who has been in prison since June serving a five-year sentence, was given two additional years for “insulting” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

But Sotoudeh's husband, Reza Khandan, disputed that and said that an additional 33 years in prison and 148 lashes had been added to her existing sentence.

It brings the lawyer’s total sentence after two “grossly unfair” trials to 38 years in prison, Amnesty International said, describing the latest sentencing as “utterly outrageous.”

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) called the “draconian” sentence “an appalling travesty of justice” and “a threat aimed at every human rights advocate in Iran to stop defending human rights.”

U.S. State Department spokesperson Robert Palladino wrote on Twitter that the new sentence was announced “while the rest of the world commemorates women’s rights,” referring to International Women’s Day on March 8.

“Is this the ‘new era of justice’ Khamenei proudly preaches about?” he added.

A spokeswoman for the European Commission called for an immediate review of the case, saying that Sotoudeh’s trial at Tehran's Revolutionary Court “went ahead in her absence" and featured "a number of other violations of the right to due process."

"The recent conviction of Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh to at least seven years' imprisonment is a worrying development," the spokeswoman said.

Last week, Mohammad Moghimi, who had represented Sotoudeh in other cases, wrote on his social-media account that that she was convicted of seven charges including “assembly and collusion against national security,” “encouraging corruption and prostitution,” “appearing at the judiciary without the Islamic hijab,” “disturbing public peace and order,” and “publishing falsehoods with the intent to disturb public opinion.”

Sotoudeh, the co-winner of the European Parliament's 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, was arrested in June 2018 and ordered to serve a five-year sentence imposed on her in absentia in 2016.

The lawyer in 2018 represented several of the women detained for removing their head scarves in public to protest against the country’s Islamic dress code.

An outspoken critic of the Iranian establishment, Sotoudeh previously spent three years in prison on security charges after representing dissidents arrested during mass protests in 2009 against the disputed reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

She has denied all charges against her.

Khandan was sentenced to six years in jail, also for security-related charges, his lawyer Mohammad Moghimi and local media said in January.

He later appealed the ruling and was released on bail.

With reporting by AFP
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