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Iranian lawmakers to gauge health of jailed human rights attorney

December 03, 2012|By Ramin Mostaghim
  • An undated picture made available on Oct. 26, 2012, shows imprisoned Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.
An undated picture made available on Oct. 26, 2012, shows imprisoned Iranian… (Mihan News Agency )

TEHRAN -- As imprisoned human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh pressed on with her hunger strike, Iranian lawmakers said they would visit her in Evin Prison to gauge her health.

Sotoudeh is serving a six-year sentence in the Tehran prison after being convicted of acting against national security and spreading propaganda against the government, charges that human rights groups claim are a smokescreen for stopping her defense of Iranian dissidents.

The jailed attorney has spent nearly seven weeks on hunger strike in protest of a travel ban imposed on her young daughter. Sotoudeh and her husband, Reza Khandan, say the travel ban is a sign that Iranian authorities are drumming up charges against the girl.

“We do not know what is in her dossier,” Khandan said. “We fight the ban to prove that no charges against our daughter are valid.”

Sotoudeh's health has deteriorated as the hunger strike has continued, Khandan said, sending her weight plummeting under 95 pounds. During a Sunday morning visit, Sotoudeh was feeble and her stomach was upset, stopping her from drinking salt and sugar solutions, Khandan said.

“If this continues, I do not think she can get to her feet to talk to us on the phone next Sunday,” Khandan said, referring to the glass enclosure from which Sotoudeh speaks to her family on visits.

Iranian lawmaker Mohammad Hasan Asefari told the semiofficial Iranian Labor News Agency that a parliamentary commission would visit the prison to assess her condition, saying that if her claims were true, they would seek an explanation from justice officials and intervene.

Taking such a step was not rare when reformists held the majority in the Iranian parliament, but is unusual now that the lawmaking body is dominated by hard-liners. The case has drawn international attention at a time when mistreatment of dissidents is causing fallout in Iran: The recent death of a dissident blogger led to the firing of a Tehran police official on Saturday.

“We welcome the visit, but for my wife every hour matters and if the visit happens next week it may be too late,” Khandan said. “My wife has a simple and humble request that her daughter should not be punished for her mother’s charges.”

Iranian officials have said that Sotoudeh has been afforded all her legal rights, but human rights activists allege Iranian prison officials have been punishing Sotoudeh and other attorneys, journalists and activists by denying them family visits and medical care.

The U.S. State Department said Friday that it was “deeply troubled” by reports that Sotoudeh's health was deteriorating, “given Iran’s history of withholding treatment from prisoners and allowing them to die from hunger strikes.” It called for Sotoudeh to be immediately released along with more than 30 other female political prisoners in Tehran.

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Emily Alpert in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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