(5 December 2011) Today, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran launched a project to help build support for the release of imprisoned human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and highlight the tragic situation of Iranian prisoners of conscience. The launch coincides with the occasion of Human Rights Day, which is celebrated worldwide on 10 December.
The project features the release of a brand new four-minute video entitled “Free Sotoudeh Now.” In the video, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi and others describe Sotoudeh’s steadfast commitment to her work, her unjust imprisonment and the urgency of a broad international effort to free her.
“Nasrin Sotoudeh is one of the bravest and most outspoken human rights defenders in Iran and her family has been working tirelessly to secure her release,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the Campaign’s spokesperson. “It is only appropriate that for Human Rights Day we step up our efforts to raise Sotoudeh’s profile and pressure the Iranian government to free her.”
In addition to the “Free Sotoudeh Now” video, the Campaign is also circulating two action letters. Individuals can send one letter to top Iranian officials demanding Sotoudeh’s freedom and another letter to the foreign ministers of 25 countries across the world urging them to call for Sotoudeh’s release.
The Campaign’s Free Sotoudeh Project has a companion webpage, featuring several videos and a slideshow, including an exclusive video of Sotoudeh, filmed before her arrest, speaking about juvenile executions in Iran. The webpage also offers other actions individuals can take to support Sotoudeh.
“Most people around the world understand that Iranian citizens are often imprisoned for speaking out or joining protests, but they usually can’t name these prisoners,” said Ghaemi. “Hopefully, by putting a name and face on the plight of prisoners of conscience in Iran, we will build momentum towards not only Sotoudeh’s release, but the release of hundreds of others unjustly behind bars in Iran.”
Since the disputed June 2009 presidential election, Iranian authorities have imprisoned hundreds of journalists, political activists, student leaders, and human right defenders for peaceful activities or their exercise of free expression, often without fair trials. Many prisoner of conscience have reported being subjected to torture and ill-treatment, often by officials from the Ministry of Intelligence attempting to coerce a confession. The ever-growing list of prisoners of conscience includes many human rights lawyers like Sotoudeh, such as Abdolfattah Soltani, Mohammad Seifzadeh, and Javid Houtan Kiyan.
Authorities arrested Sotoudeh on 4 September 2010. She was subsequently charged with “acting against national security” and “propaganda against the regime,” and sentenced in September 2011 by an appeals court to six years in prison and a 10-year ban on legal practice.
The court’s decision was wholly based on Sotoudeh having worked alongside one of Iran’s leading rights groups, the Defenders of Human Rights Center, and for having provided legal representation to protestors and government critics following the 2009 election. This representation included talking to national and international media about the cases of her clients. She has twice gone on hunger strike to protest the denial of her basic rights as a defendant and prisoner.
Nasrin Sotoudeh, a mother of two young children, gained prominence in Iran and internationally for her work to abolish the juvenile death penalty, improve the rights of women, and defend prisoners of conscience. She received the 2008 HRI-Prize for Human Rights form the Italian based Human Rights International Committee. In 2011, Sotoudeh was awarded the prestigious Pen International Freedom to Write Award.
Sotoudeh’s case has been consistently cited as a violation of human rights by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, numerous governments and the European Union, as well as international rights NGOs.
Human Rights Day commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948 by the United Nations.
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