After a three-year confinement in Evin prison, human-rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, was released on September 18, 2013 by the Iranian government. Her release, as well as the release of many other political prisoners, took place as the new Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, is scheduled to travel to the United States for the UN General Assembly’s sixty-eighth session in New York City. Usually Iranian officials are questioned about the status of political prisoners when visiting America.
Charged with acting against and therefore threatening national security, making propaganda against the state and separately fined for not using the Islamic head-covering or hejab, Ms. Sotoudeh was sentenced to twenty years’ ban on her legal practice, twenty years ban on foreign travel and eleven years in prison, Her sentence was later reduced to six years in prison. When she went on a forty-nine day hunger strike in protest for her daughter not being allowed to travel outside of the country, she was transferred to solitary confinement. Ms. Sotoudeh also has a son Nima.
Fifty years of age, Ms. Sotoudeh is known politically and intellectually for her advocacy and pro-bono legal work for other human-rights activists and those people on death row who are either, women, children or journalists.
The European Parliament uses the Sakharov Prize as its highest human-rights award. Previous winners include Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi. Nasrin Sotoudeh won the coveted prize last year.
As Ms. Soutoudeh told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, the other imprisoned lawyers must be released soon, too, because they are only in jail for doing their professional duties. By all international standards, lawyers are protected from imprisonment for doing their job, but this principle has been ignored in Iran and lawyers’ rights have been violated.
One of Ms. Sotoudeh’s lawyers, Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani, received a sentence of thirteen years in prison in addition to exile at Borazjan prison. He is currently imprisoned in Tehran.
There was some speculation from Ms. Sotoudeh and her husband, Reza Khandran as to whether she had been furloughed, conditionally released or pardoned. The difference this time with her release is she was told “You are free.” She didn’t need to sign a furlough pass which prisoners must do in which they promise that they will return to prison in three or four days.
American focus on Iran is currently concentrated on Iran President Hassan Rouhani’s visit next week. According to the Wall Street Journal, since pro-American Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was overthrown by Islamic radicals in 1979, top Iranian leaders have not met with an American president. Even something as simple as a handshake between American and Iranian officials would constitute progress.
Mr. Rouhani has indicated he wishes to discover ways to ease the sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. Empowered by Iran’s supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamemei to broker a deal on the nuclear situation, Rouhani has stated he wishes to create good relations with Mr. Obama. As for Mr. Obama, he is willing to engage in diplomacy.