Leading Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) Heidi Hautala, Vice President in charge of Democracy, Human Rights and the Sakharov Community, and Maria Arena, Chair of the Sub-Committee on Human Rights, expressed their concern for the health of Sakharov Prize laureate Nasrin Sotoudeh and have called for Iranian authorities to listen to her claim for justice as she puts her life at risk to save political prisoners.
The two Belgium MEPs issued a statement on 18th August 2020 on Nasrin Sotoudeh’s renewed hunger strike and the increased pressure being applied to her family by Iranian authorities. The statement highlighted “We are strongly concerned about the health of our Sakharov Prize laureate Nasrin Sotoudeh. For the second time in less than six months, she puts her life at risk in a hunger strike, as the Iranian authorities refuse to respond to any communications requesting legal steps for the release of human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience.”
Nasrin is among the hundreds of prisoners of conscience jailed in Iran and the MEPs went on to say that “The unjust and illegal situation of political prisoners in Iran has been exacerbated amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. They were widely excluded from the March 2020 mass release of prisoners in response to the outbreak of Corona and keep being deprived from their legal right of appeal.
Nasrin Sotoudeh is a prominent Iranian human rights lawyer who has represented imprisoned Iranian opposition activists and politicians following the disputed June 2009 Iranian presidential elections . She has also represented prisoners sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were minors and women arrested for appearing in public without a hijab, which is a punishable offence in Iran. Her clients have included journalist Isa Saharkhiz, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, and Heshmat Tabarzadi, the head of the banned opposition group National Democratic Front.
According to Amnesty International, after two grossly unfair trails she was sentenced to 38 years and six months in prison and 148 lashes because of her work defending women’s rights and protesting against Iran’s discriminatory and degrading forced veiling laws. Towards the end of July, the Tehran Prosecutor froze her bank accounts without justification. On 17th August, her daughter Mehraveh was detained and released pending a second convocation.
COVID-19 has been identified in prisons across Iran and this has given rise to grave fears that prisoners, like Nasrin, are at risk of contracting the virus. Prisoners are at particular risk because they are unable to take the same social distancing and hygiene measures as those outside of prison to protect themselves.
Across Iran, prisoners have pleaded with officials to address overcrowded, unhygienic and unsanitary conditions that put them at greater risk of COVID-19 infections, raising alarms about the authorities’ failure to sufficiently protect prison populations from the spread of the virus. Some prisoners have been denied adequate medical care, leaving them at greater risk from the virus if contracted.
Nasrin Sotoudeh’s courage is unabated, as she continues to raise her voice for the most vulnerable. Nasrin has dedicated her life to peaceful human rights works and as the MEPs concluded “it is time for the Iranian authorities to listen to her claim for justice and refrain from putting pressure on her family!”
Photo Credit : https://fr.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fichier:Nasrin_Sotoudeh_portrait-1.png