30 May 1963|
|Alma mater||Shahid Beheshti University|
|Occupation||Human rights lawyer|
Freedom to Write Award (2011)|
Sakharov Prize (2012)
Nasrin Sotoudeh (also spelled Sotoodeh; Persian: نسرین ستوده) is a human rights lawyer in Iran. She has represented imprisoned Iranian opposition activists and politicians following the disputed June 2009 Iranian presidential elections as well as prisoners sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were minors. Her clients have included journalist Isa Saharkhiz, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, and Heshmat Tabarzadi, the head of the banned opposition group Democratic Front of Iran.
Sotoudeh was arrested in September 2010 on charges of spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security and was imprisoned in solitary confinement in Evin Prison. In January 2011, Iranian authorities sentenced Sotoudeh to 11 years in prison, in addition to barring her from practicing law and from leaving the country for 20 years. An appeals court later reduced Sotoudeh's prison sentence to six years, and her ban from working as a lawyer to ten years.
Family and education
Nasrin Sotoudeh was born in 1963 in a "religious, middle-class" Iranian family. She had hoped to study philosophy in college and ranked 53rd in the Iranian national university entrance exam but lacked high enough marks to get a place and ended up studying law at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran. After completing her degree in international law from the university, Sotoudeh took and passed the bar exam successfully in 1995 but had to wait another eight years to be given her permit to practice law.
Work and activity
Sotoudeh started her career at the Iranian Ministry of Housing legal office and after two years joined the legal section of the state-owned Bank Tejarat. During her tenure at the bank she was "heavily involved with preparing the legal case and the legal arguments for many of the cases that Iran presented at The Hague" in its dispute with the United States during "the Algeria court summons there".
Sotoudeh's "first work in the field of women's rights" was a diverse collection of interviews, reports, and articles for the journal Daricheh. The editor-in-chief of the publication rejected the collection which "made Sotoudeh even more determined in her work for women's rights".
In 1995 at the age of 32 she took the Bar (Kanoon Vokala) exam and earned her lawyers credentials, and became one of the most active members of the law society. Sotoudeh's work has included defending abused children and mothers and working to protect abused children from returning to their abusive fathers. She believes that many abusers are ill or past victims of mistreatment themselves, and in need of professional care and medication. She hopes that the courts will make better use of child specialists and psychologists in verifying abuse cases to better protect innocent children.
Prior to her arrest, Sotoudeh represented activists and journalists such as Kourosh Zaim, Isa Saharkhiz, Heshmat Tabarzadi, Nahid Keshavarz, Parvin Ardalan, Omid Memarian, and Roya Tolouie, as well as child abuse and criminal cases. She worked closely with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi and her Defenders of Human Rights Center. Following Sotoudeh's arrest, Ebadi called for her release and expressed concern regarding her health. In the statement, Ebadi said, "Ms. Sotoudeh is one of the last remaining courageous human rights lawyers who has accepted all risks for defending the victims of human rights violations in Iran". Former Czech President Václav Havel and Zahra Rahnavard, the wife of opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi, also called for Sotoudeh's release.
Arrest and trial
On 28 August 2010, Iranian authorities raided Sotoudeh's office. At the time, Sotoudeh was representing Zahra Bahrami, a Dutch-Iranian dual citizen charged with security offenses; it was unclear whether the raid was related to Bahrami. On 4 September 2010, Iranian authorities arrested Sotoudeh on charges of spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security. The Washington Post described the arrest as "highlighting an intensifying crackdown on lawyers who defend influential opposition politicians, activists and journalists."
Amnesty International launched an urgent call for her release, designating her a prisoner of conscience and noting that she was "at risk of torture or other ill-treatment". Sotoudeh, who was imprisoned in Evin Prison, was reportedly held in solitary confinement.
On 9 January 2011, Iranian authorities sentenced Sotoudeh to 11 years in jail for charges that include "activities against national security" and "propaganda against the regime." Additionally, she has been barred from practicing law and from leaving the country for 20 years. In mid-September 2011, an appeals court reduced Nasrin Sotoudeh's prison sentence to six years; her ban from working as a lawyer was reduced to ten years.
- On 25 September 2010, she began a hunger strike to protest being denied visits and phone calls from her family. According to her husband, Sotoudeh ended her hunger strike four weeks later, on 23 October.
- On 17 October 2012, Sotoudeh began an indefinite hunger strike in protest of new restrictions placed on her family visits. On the 47th day of strike, her husband described her condition as:
On 4 December 2012 Sotoudeh stopped her hunger strike after 49 days following a short visit of some parliament members at Evin prison where they acknowledged and implemented her requests on lifting her daughter's travel ban.
Now her health condition is so drastic that I don't expect her steady until our next meeting. Dizziness, impaired vision, unsteadiness in walking and low pressure are alarming signs of deterioration, besides the extreme thinness.
- On 29 August 2018, Sotoudeh began a hunger strike to protest her detention and government harassment of her family and friends.
Sotoudeh's imprisonment was widely condemned in the international community. In October 2010, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists, the International Federation for Human Rights, the Iranian League for the Defence of Human Rights, the Union Internationale des Avocats and the World Organisation Against Torture joined Amnesty International in a joint statement denouncing Sotoudeh's arrest and calling for her immediate release. The US condemned what it called the "unjust and harsh verdict" against Sotoudeh, who it called "a strong voice for rule of law and justice in Iran". On 20 December 2010, Amnesty International held a day-long protest at the Iranian embassy in London to protest her imprisonment. In January 2011, the Law Society of England and Wales also issued a call for her release.
On 26 October 2012, Sotoudeh was announced as a co-winner of the Sakharov Prize of the European Parliament. She shared the award with Iranian film director Jafar Panahi. European Parliament President Martin Schulz called the pair "a woman and a man who have not been bowed by fear and intimidation and who have decided to put the fate of their country before their own". European Union High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton stated of the prize, "I am following the case of Nasrin Sotoudeh and other human rights defenders with great concern ... We will continue to campaign for the charges against them to be dropped. We look to Iran to respect the human rights obligations it has signed up to". Human rights defender and Freelance journalist, William Nicholas Gomes demanded Immediate and unconditional release Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh  
On 22 August 2018, 60 members of the European parliament called on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to forcefully work for Sotoudeh's "unconditional release."
Sotoudeh was released on 18 September 2013 along with ten other political prisoners, including opposition leader Mohsen Aminzadeh, days before an address by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to the United Nations. No explanation was given for her early release.
Awards and honors
- 2011 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award
- 2011 Southern Illinois University School of Law Rule of Law Citation
- 2011 Giuseppe Motta Medal
- 2012 Sakharov Prize
- On 21 September 2018, she was awarded the annual tribute for a lawyer, the twenty_third Ludovic-Trarieux International Human Rights Prize initially bestowed to Nelson Mandela in 1986 when in jail.
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- BAHRI calls for the immediate release of prominent Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh
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- Human rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh on hunger strike
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- "Iran: Immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh" News Ghana, Aug 30, 2018 https://www.newsghana.com.gh/iran-immediately-and-unconditionally-release-ms-nasrin-sotoudeh/
- European MPs Call For Iranian Human Rights Lawyer's Release
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- "Law School Honors Iranian Human Rights Attorney". US Federal News Service – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). 21 May 2011. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
- http://motta.gidd.eu.org/ Giuseppe Motta Medal Website
- Holland's Persian Community's Demonstration for Nasrin Sotoudeh Freedom (Persian Dutch Network)