Iran sentences human rights lawyer to nearly four decades of prison time

Iran has sentenced a human-rights lawyer to 38 years in prison, as well as 148 lashes, her husband has said.

Among her crimes? She defended women who removed their hijabs — head scarves — in protest. 

The move is being criticized by the international community for its harshness, with advocates calling for Nasrin Sotoudeh's release. The Center for Human Rigths in Iran released a statement, condeming the action:

"Iran should immediately and unconditionally release Sotoudeh and other human rights defenders who are unjustly spending Nowruz, the Persian New Year, behind bars," the agency said. 

Its executive director, Hadi Ghaemi said: “Nasrin Sotoudeh joins the large number of activists in Iranian prisons who are there solely for their lawful activism. This reflects the depth of repression in Iran, where the most peaceful activities are criminalized, and the authorities disregard even the most minimum standards of law and justice.”

Sotoudeh received the European Union’s most prestigious human rights award, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, in 2012, while serving a previous prison sentence, The New York Times reported. 

One of her clients, Shaparak Shajarizadeh, wrote of how Sotoudeh saved her from imprisonment in a Time magazine article.

"After my third arrest and imprisonment for removing my headscarf, I was told by Iranian Intelligence that when (rather than if) I’m convicted I would never see my 8-year-old son Barbad again. They had already detained Barbad with me the last time; seeing him in handcuffs broke my heart. So when Nasrin got me out on bail, I immediately fled the country with my son, and my trial proceeded without me. Nasrin informed me that throughout the trial, the judge refused to hear my side and had already made his mind up. My fate was predetermined, as it had been for so many of the women who stood trial before me. However, unlike those women — and thanks to Nasrin — I was safely outside the country with my son when my 20-year sentence was handed down. Today, I live in exile in Canada, where I am seeking asylum."