European Parliament Urges Iran To Release Sotoudeh, Other Jailed Rights Defenders

Iran appointed to UN Women's Rights Commission same week a women's rights lawyer sentenced to 38 years (and 148 lashes)

In a resolution adopted on March 14, the lawmakers urged Iran to release "all human rights defenders, prisoners of conscience, and journalists detained and sentenced merely for exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly".

Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy director, described the sentence as a "shocking injustice".

An Iranian human rights lawyer has been sentenced to 33 years in prison and 148 lashes, according to her husband.

There's been mixed signals over the actual length of Sotoudeh's sentence, reports newspaper Aftenposten, with one judge saying she was "only" sentenced to two years in prison for offending Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and five years for "meetings and conspiracy against the state". After 8 months, it was revealed Monday that Sotoudeh had been sentenced to 38 years in prison plus 148 lashes. She said the Norwegian government and Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide must do all they can to support Sotoudeh, who has been held as a political prisoner in Iran on several earlier charges.

For many years, Sotoudeh has represented prominent opposition activists, and was previously imprisoned from 2010 to 2013, after being convicted on security-related charges for her human rights work.

Halvorsen said Norway's foreign ministry would follow up the concrete case against Sotoudeh, in close cooperation with the European Union and other countries. "I only know that the biggest sentence was 12 years", he said, for the charge of encouraging corruption and prostitution.

It's not clear why the judge in the case is saying the sentence is seven years when it appears to be 38, but in either case, this is ridiculous punishment for trumped-up charges.

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Iran, often accused of human rights abuse, said on Monday it had allowed UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore to visit last week at the head of a "technical mission".

"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".

The global human right NGO said that this is the harshest sentence it has documented against a human rights defender in Iran in recent years.

"This sentence is unjust, illogical and unusual".

He told Aljazeera: "It is absolutely shocking that Nasrin Sotoudeh is facing almost 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".

The condemnation of the lawyer and activist has raised an indignant response from most of the global community, including human rights NGOs and various Western chancelleries.

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