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Human Rights Lawyer Sentenced by Iranian Regime to 38 Years in Prison

A prominent Iranian human rights lawyer has been sentenced to an extra 10 years in jail on top of the five-year term she is already serving for defending protesters against the Islamic Republic’s mandatory hijab laws, the BBC reported Monday.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, an award-winning women’s rights activist, was arrest last June, together with at least seven other human rights lawyers. Sotoudeh was told at the time that she would be serving a five-year sentence after being convicted in absentia on espionage-related charges. She was later given two additional years for “insulting” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“The sentence, reported on her husband Reza Khandan’s Facebook page on 11 March, brings her total sentence after two grossly unfair trials to 38 years in prison,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

“It is absolutely shocking that Nasrin Sotoudeh is facing nearly four decades in jail and 148 lashes for her peaceful human rights work, including her defence of women protesting against Iran’s degrading forced hijab (veiling) laws,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director.

Luther added: “Nasrin Sotoudeh has dedicated her life to defending women’s rights and speaking out against the death penalty – it is utterly outrageous that Iran’s authorities are punishing her for her human rights work. Her conviction and sentence consolidate Iran’s reputation as a cruel oppressor of women’s rights.”

There was no immediate comment from authorities about the sentence.

The judgment came just days after Iran appointed hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi to serve as the new head of the judiciary. Raisi has been implicated for his role in mass executions in the 1980s and is a protege of Khamenei.

In 2016, after her fellow rights lawyer, Narges Mohammadi, was sentenced to 16 years in prison, Sotoudeh said that Mohammadi “has committed no crime and has just been doing her job as a lawyer and citizen.” She added, “Every day Narges is behind bars is one too many.”

In February 2018, Iranian authorities arrested 29 women for their involvement in protests against the country’s compulsory hijab law. Tehran police suggested that the women’s actions were incited by foreigners, saying those arrested were “deceived” into removing their head covering.

In 2012, Sotoudeh was announced as a co-winner of the prestigious Sakharov Prize of the European Parliament for her work on high-profile human rights cases, including her defense of juveniles facing death sentences. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Iran, Javaid Rehman, blasted the Islamic Republic earlier this month for continuing to execute children in defiance of international law.

[Photo: FRANCE 24 English / YouTube ]