Amnesty International has condemned the sentencing of prominent Iranian human rights lawyer and women’s rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh, calling it “outrageous injustice”.
Sotoudeh, who has been in Tehran’s Evin prison since last June, was sentenced to 148 lashes and 33 years in prison on Monday.
In 2016, she was sentenced in absentia to five years in a separate trial.
“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 [headscarf] laws,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy director.
“Nasrin Sotoudeh must be released immediately and unconditionally and this obscene sentence quashed without delay,” he continued.
The lawyer was convicted on seven charges, which Amnesty described as a response to “her peaceful human rights work”.
The charges include “inciting corruption and prostitution”, “openly committing a sinful act by… appearing in public without a hijab” and “disrupting public order”.
Amnesty noted that Sotoudeh’s sentencing is the harshest the group has documented in Iran in recent years, suggesting that the Iranian government is increasing its repression on activists and rights defenders.
Sotoudeh, 56, has represented several women arrested for protesting against the mandatory wearing of headscarves.
Sotoudeh won the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov rights award in 2012 for her work on high-profile rights and political cases, including juveniles facing the death penalty in the country.
She has defended journalists and activists, including Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi and several dissidents arrested during mass protests in 2009.
This is not Sotoudeh’s first stint in prison.
In 2010, she was arrested by security forces and later sentenced to 11 years in prison. She was also banned from practising law for 20 years, before the Lawyers’ Court at the Tehran Bar Association overturned the ban on her legal practice in August 2014.
During her time in jail, Sotoudeh staged two hunger strikes in protest against the conditions in Evin and a ban on seeing her son and daughter.
She was released in September 2013, shortly before Iran’s then-newly elected President Hassan Rouhani, who had campaigned on a pledge to improve civil rights, attended the UN General Assembly.
Amnesty’s Luther called on governments with influence over Iran to use their power to secure Sotoudeh’s release.
“The international community, notably the European Union, which has an ongoing dialogue with Iran, must take a strong public stand against this disgraceful conviction and urgently intervene to ensure that she is released immediately and unconditionally,” he said.