Iran sends human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh back to jail despite failing health


Iran’s leading human rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh is back in prison, less than a month after her temporary release from a 12-year jail term, her husband told The Independent.

Ms. Sotoudeh, 57, was allowed to return home at the beginning of last month after being given temporary release to allow her to have treatment for heart and lung problems.

The lawyer and activist was jailed in 2018 after defending a woman arrested for protesting against the requirement for Iranian women to wear the hijab.

In 2019, she was sentenced again to 12 years in prison “for encouraging corruption and debauchery.”

Her husband, Reza Khandan, said his wife was transported back to jail on Wednesday (Dec. 02) without ever receiving the medical treatment she needs due to her deteriorating health.

“Nasrin’s body is very weak and exhausted after being on hunger strike for 46 days and two and a half years’ imprisonment. Her body hasn’t recovered, considering her age and being on hunger strike multiple times,” he told The Independent.

Ms. Sotoudeh tested positive for coronavirus on Nov. 10, just after being temporarily released from prison and her husband is anxious about her health.

“The first days of medical leave, we found out that she was infected by coronavirus in prison and we couldn’t start her medical care. She is very weak and her body has lost its strength. To recover at her age is very hard and takes time. I am worried about her health.”

“They sent Nasrin to Qarchak prison, despite the government doctor saying that Nasrin needs two more weeks to recover from the disease and still needs to wear a mask, even inside the house.”

It comes after campaigners recently told The Independent Ms. Sotoudeh was in a life-threatening condition and “on her last legs” after authorities signed the prisoner’s “death warrant” by denying her an urgent heart-related procedure.

In September, leading human rights charities said Ms. Sotoudeh had been transferred from Evin Prison to Taleghani Hospital’s intensive care unit in the capital of Tehran due to her deteriorating health, difficulties with breathing, and serious heart problems.

Ms. Sotoudeh’s 46-day long hunger strike, which finished in late September, called for political prisoners and human rights activists to be released from jail amid the COVID-19 emergency.

Campaigners say the authorities in Iran – the country worst hit by the pandemic in the Middle East – have failed to protect prisoners of conscience in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

Ms. Sotoudeh, a laureate of the European parliament’s Sakharov Prize, was arrested on charges of collusion and propaganda against Iran’s leaders in 2018 and handed a 38-year prison sentence and 148 lashes.

Ms. Sotoudeh, who denies the charges against her but has been detained since June 2018, was moved on Oct. 20 from Evin Prison to Qarchak – a jail in the desert which campaigners say is notorious for having the “worst prison conditions” in Iran.

Shaparak Shajarizadeh, a woman’s rights activist who is one of Ms. Sotoudeh’s last clients, told The Independent: “When Nasrin Sotoudeh accepted to be my attorney, she knew the risk that she was taking. She told me that she was one of us and was supporting our cause of opposing the ‘compulsory hijab’ by defending us.”

Women’s rights are stringently restricted in Iran and wearing a headscarf is compulsory in public for all women there – with those who do not wear a hijab, or have some of their hair on display while wearing a hijab, facing punishments ranging from fines to imprisonment. (Source: The Independent UK)