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Jailed Iranian Rights Advocate Hospitalized With 'Heart Problems'


Nasrin Sotoudeh

Jailed Iranian human rights advocate Nasrin Sotoudeh has been hospitalized with heart problems, her husband, Reza Khandan, said.

Sotoudeh has been on a hunger strike in Tehran’s Evin prison since August 11 to protest the risks that political prisoners in Iran face amid the coronavirus pandemic

Sotoudeh was suffering from “heart problems, shortness of breath, very low blood pressure, and severe general weakness,” Khandan wrote on Twitter on September 19.

Khandan said she was transferred to a coronary-care unit due to her “serious condition.”

Sotoudeh has said she will refuse to eat in order to secure the release of political prisoners who have not been included in the temporary prison leaves granted to tens of thousands of detainees to prevent the spread of the virus in the country’s overcrowded prisons, according to Iranian authorities.

The pandemic has killed more than 24,000 Iranians and infected over 400,000, according to official figures. Real numbers are believed to be significantly higher.

PEN America, an open expression advocacy group, called for the immediate release of Sotoudeh and other political prisoners “whose health is at risk due to the spread of COVID-19 inside Iran’s jails.”

“Nasrin’s condition is critical and her life hangs in the balance, but her spirit remains unbroken and her calls for justice are reverberating around the world,” Karin Deutsch Karlekar, PEN America’s director of free expression at risk programs, said in a statement on September 18.

“We call on President [Hassan] Rohani to free Nasrin from Evin prison and reunite her with her family, as well as release other unjustly incarcerated political prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Sotoudeh, co-winner of the European Parliament's 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, has been surviving on water, tea, sugar, and salt, amid concerns over her health, her husband has said.

Sotoudeh was arrested at her home in Tehran in June 2018.

She was sentenced to a total of 38 1/2 years in prison and 148 lashes over her defense of political prisoners, including women protesting the compulsory hijab law.

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