Call for the immediate release of Nasrin Sotoudeh, Iranian human and women’s rights activist

Call for the immediate release of Nasrin Sotoudeh, Iranian human and women’s rights activist

On 28 October 2020, Italian Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Rosanna Conte of the Identity and Democracy Group posed a written parliamentary question to the Vice-President of the Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell:

“Nasrin Sotoudeh is a 57-year old Iranian woman – a lawyer – who has devoted her life to defending the human rights of activists, opponents and Iranian women who have been arrested for removing their veil in public.

The authorities in Tehran have twice sentenced her and jailed her for her battles, following summary unfair trials leading to a sentence of 38 years in prison and 148 lashes. Her husband, Reza Khandan, has also been sentenced to a long term of imprisonment.

In September, Nasrin started a hunger strike to protest against the inhumane conditions, exacerbated by the current pandemic, in which prisoners live in Iran.

Her health has recently worsened and, instead of being transferred to hospital, she was taken to a prison with even worse sanitary conditions.

The EU’s external action is tied to respect for human rights; can the Vice-President/High Representative therefore clarify:

1. how the talks with Iran to secure Nasrin’s release are going;

2. whether he will take concrete measures – not just diplomatic ones – to safeguard the health of the woman who was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2012?”

On 22 January 2021, High Representative and Vice-President Borrell stated, “Since Ms. Sotoudeh’s most recent detention in June 2018, the High Representative/Vice-President (HR/VP) and his services have been closely following Ms. Sotoudeh’s case.

The HR/VP was extremely concerned about Ms. Sotoudeh’s conviction in March 2019 since this was completely incompatible with the nature of her work as a lawyer to promote fundamental human rights, including her attempts to prevent the execution of young offenders and her work in favor of women’s equality.

That is why, on 13 March 2019, the High Representative’s Spokesperson had issued a statement recalling these concerns and urging Iran to ensure that Ms. Sotoudeh and her husband, Reza Khandan, also threatened with a long sentence of imprisonment, could appeal their respective conditions.

The HR/VP and his services have raised Ms. Sotoudeh’s case on numerous occasions during their bilateral contacts with Iranian authorities. In particular, the European External Action Service has asked that she be released and that while in detention, she be allowed access to a lawyer of her own choosing and meetings with her family members.

Most recently, High Representative/Vice-President Borrell raised Ms. Sotoudeh’s case during his intervention on Iran on 7 October at the European Parliament.

After a short furlough granted on 7 November, Ms. Sotoudeh was imprisoned again on 2 December, despite the fact that she is facing clear health difficulties. The HR/VP acknowledges that Ms. Sotoudeh was temporarily released on health grounds on 7 January.

Nevertheless, the HR/VP deplores the fact that Ms. Sotoudeh’s convictions and prison sentences still stand, preventing her from being permanently released. The HR/VP will also continue to urge the Iranian authorities to release all other prisoners in Iran who were detained as a result of their human rights advocacy.”


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