Iranian human rights activist and lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh is free! Sotoudeh, who has spent the past three years in prison, was released by authorities last Wednesday with a small group of other political prisoners.
The move comes days ahead of a visit by Iran’s newly elected President Hassan Rouhani to the United Nations General Assembly, where the regime has faced criticism for its human rights record.
Sotoudeh, a prominent lawyer who defended many women’s rights activists including Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi, was arrested in 2010. She was sentenced to six years in prison for spreading lies against the state. She has been subjected to lengthy periods of solitary confinement and has gone on hunger strikes to protest her confinment. She has been barred from practicing law for 20 years.
In an interview just hours after her release, Sotoudeh told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, “When they took me out of the prison, they told me, ‘You are free.’ Last night they told four others. They told me that my furlough was approved, but when I came out of the prison door, they told me ‘You are free.’ This is why I didn’t sign the furlough form in which prisoners promise to return after three to four days.”
The laureates of the Nobel Women’s Initiative have repeatedly called on authorities release of Sotoudeh, who has been deemed a prisoner of conscience and during her imprisonment was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
While Nasrin Sotoudeh and others were freed, the laureates and Sotoudeh herself have reflected that the struggle for freedom remains for many more who remain behind bars. Shirin Ebadi stated, “I am so happy that Nasrin is released and I hope other women’s rights activists in Iran such as Bahareh Hedayat, a young activist who has been sentenced to nine years and other women’s rights activists who are in prison only because of their struggle for gender equality, will be released soon.”
Nasrin Sotoudeh, an hour after release: “They told me, You are free.” International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, 18 September 2013.
Iran: Nasrin Sotoudeh ‘among freed political prisoners’, BBC News, 18 September 2013.
UN rights chief encourages Iranian Government to build on recent prisoner release, UN News Centre, 20 September 2013.
Nobel Women call on Iranian authorities to release Nasrin Sotoudeh, Nobel Women’s Initiative, 20 November 2012.
Spotlighting Nasrin Sotoudeh, Nobel Women’s Initiative, 8 December 2011.