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IRAN: Human rights lawyer's appeal hearing postponed

May 30, 2011 | 10:22 am

N4-f20d2Prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh's court hearing concerning the suspension of her legal license was postponed Sunday by the Iran Bar Assn.

According to Sotoudeh's husband, Reza Khandan, the court hearing, which was expected to end the lawyer's formal legal career, was rescheduled indefinitely. 

Sotoudeh was able to briefly embrace her husband during her court appearance Sunday, a rare opportunity. According to Khandan, she is allowed to talk to him and a handful of family members for only 20 minutes a week.

"We are six or seven, my children, me, her brother and sister and my parents who live with us since my wife was sent to jail. Her mom is too old and sick to walk to jail," he said.

He said his young son cannot understand why he is not allowed to stay with his mother, and when their jail visits end, he "screams and cries for hours."

"You can imagine [how difficult it is] to lead our daily life without my wife," he said.

Before her arrest, the legal activist was known for helping imprisoned high-profile Iranian opposition activists and politicians, especially those arrested following the disputed 2009 presidential elections.

Sotoudeh is also an advocate for juvenile offenders on death row. In a letter to her daughter, she said her children inspired her to represent other youth.

The lawyer and activist saw her home raided in August and was arrested a month later, charged with spreading propaganda against the regime and conspiring to harm state security. 

In January, the Revolutionary Court sentenced Sotoudeh to 11 years in prison and banned her from practicing law and leaving the country for 20 years.

In an effort to challenge the conditions of her imprisonment, Sotoudeh staged two hunger strikes.

In an interview with Babylon & Beyond, Khandan shared a recent letter his wife wrote to him from prison, in which she defiantly declared, "You do not need a license to uphold people's rights and justice."

"Whether or not I have a license to work as attorney at law, I will keep on defending people whose rights have been violated," she wrote. "As a lawyer, I have taken an oath to defend the rights of oppressed people." 

Amnesty International and several other human rights organizations have condemned Sotoudeh's arrest, calling her a "prisoner of conscience" vulnerable to torture and inhumane treatment. 

In an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Khandan said Sotoudeh was being pressured to confess her crimes in the months preceding her court hearing. 

"I don’t know why they asked that, because my wife would not give in under any amount of hardship," he said. "Even if they keep her in there for a hundred years, she would not do it."

Many of Sotoudeh's visitors are surprised that she does not wear a head scarf in her office, an offense in Iran that she has also been charged with.

"This is my office and my private sphere and I do not obey the official code of dress," she told Babylon & Beyond in an interview before she was arrested.

Sotoudeh was recently moved from solitary confinement to a ward with nearly three dozen other inmates, according to her daughter. Monday is her birthday; she turns 48. 

-- Roula Hajjar in Beirut and Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran

Photo: Incarcerated Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh steals an embrace with her husband, Reza Khandan. Credit: The Feminist School. 

 

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