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Home News & Events Latest News 2018 Public Statement-Iran: Nasrin Sotoudeh (September 2018)

Public Statement-Iran: Nasrin Sotoudeh (September 2018)

September 27, 2018

Toronto, ON — The Law Society of Ontario expresses grave concern over the arrest, detention and charges against lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. When serious issues of apparent injustice to lawyers and the judiciary come to our attention, we speak out.
 
Nasrin Sotoudeh is a prominent human rights lawyer in Iran. The Law Society has previously intervened on her behalf in September 2010, October, 2013, and December 9, 2014 after she was arrested and detained for exercising her legitimate professional duties.
 
Reports indicate that Nasrin Sotoudeh was most recently arrested on June 13, 2018 in her home in Tehran, and was transferred to the prosecutor’s office of Evin prison. At the time of her arrest, Nasrin Sotoudeh was not aware or informed of the charges against her.
 
According to reports, Nasrin Sotoudeh has been detained to serve a five-year prison sentence she had received in absentia on September 3, 2016. The Iranian authorities had not previously informed Nasrin Sotoudeh about the charges, conviction or sentence nor made this information available through a public announcement.


Reports indicate that Nasrin Sotoudeh’s conviction and subsequent sentencing are based on her human rights activism. Branch 28 of Tehran’s revolutionary court’s verdict against Nasrin Sotoudeh cited that she had carried out “meetings [that] have taken place with a human rights cover to increase pressure of enemy governments [on Iran] and to condemn Iran as a human rights violators (sic)”. The verdict also cited that Nasrin Sotoudeh publicly supported Step by Step to Stop the Death Penalty, an “illegal” non-governmental organization dedicated to reducing executions in Iran. Nasrin Sotoudeh’s lawyers reported that they read a letter from the Intelligence Ministry’s Office of Judicial Laws, which asked prosecutors to sentence her “because she had resumed her ‘soft war against the country...portraying the government in a negative light...’”
 
Despite unknowingly being sentenced in 2016, Nasrin Sotoudeh was not detained to serve her 2016 sentence until almost two years later.
 
Reports state that Nasrin Sotoudeh was brought into custody for the 2016 conviction shortly after she represented a female client who had been arrested for removing her headscarf in public to protest Iran’s compulsory dress code (hijab) laws.
 
On July 1, 2018, the prosecutor advised Nasrin Sotoudeh of new charges against her: “propaganda against the state” and “assembly and collusion”, in relation to her providing legal representation to the female client previously mentioned. Because Nasrin Sotoudeh’s charges are politically-based, she is permitted to hire legal representation, but only from a list of twenty lawyers approved by the judiciary; according to Nasrin Sotoudeh’s husband, she has refused to retain a lawyer in protest.
 
Reports indicate that on August 25, 2018, Nasrin Sotoudeh started a hunger strike to protest her detention and the harassment, threatening and intimidation of her family and friends by Iranian authorities. On September 4, 2018, Nasrin Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, who had been campaigning for her release, was arrested according to reports.
 
The Law Society of Ontario is deeply troubled by Nasrin Sotoudeh’s situation and urges Iran to comply with its obligations under international human rights laws, including the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
 
Article 16 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states:
 
Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economics or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.
 
Article 17 states:
 
Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.
 
Furthermore, Article 23 provides:
 
Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization.
 
The Law Society urges the Government of Iran to:

  1. withdraw the charges against Nasrin Sotoudeh and her family members immediately and unconditionally;

  2. release Nasrin Sotoudeh and her family members, unconditionally, and ensure that they are returned home;

  3. ensure that Nasrin Sotoudeh and her family members are not subjected to torture or other ill-treatment, have regular, unrestricted access to family, lawyers of their choice, and medical care;

  4. guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Nasrin Sotoudeh and her family members;

  5. guarantee that adequate reparation will be provided to Nasrin Sotoudeh and her family members if they are found to be victims of human rights abuses;

  6. ensure that all lawyers and judges in Iran are adequately safeguarded by the authorities such that they are able to carry out their professional duties and activities free from intimidation, hindrance, harassment, improper interference, the threat of criminalization, or other human rights violations; and

  7. ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments.