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Iranian human rights attorney temporarily released from prison

January 18, 2013|By Ramin Mostaghim
  • Attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh in 2010.
Attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh in 2010. (European Pressphoto Agency )

TEHRAN -- Iranian attorney and human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh was  freed for three days from a Tehran prison after more than two years behind bars.

"She is suffering from digestive system disorder, her mom is recently deceased, so she needs to be out of jail to spend time with her children and family and restore her health," her husband, Reza Khandan, told The Times. Sotoudeh herself did not speak with the media.

Sotoudeh, who is known for defending Iranian dissidents, was convicted of undermining national security and spreading propaganda against the government after she spoke out against the unannounced execution of one of her clients. She is serving six years in prison, a sentence that the U.S. State Department and human rights groups condemn as an unjust attempt to silence her.

The U.N. human rights office welcomed news of her temporary release, which allowed her to rejoin her family this week.

“We hope that the temporary leave will be extended and that Ms. Sotoudeh will soon be indefinitely released,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville said.

Colville said the decision “marks a second improvement in her case.” Iranian authorities dropped a travel ban for her young daughter last month after Sotoudeh went on a hunger strike for nearly seven weeks because she feared that the ban meant her daughter would face charges. The family had also complained about restrictions on their visits to Sotoudeh.

Iranian authorities did not say why Sotoudeh was allowed the furlough. Iran has recently allowed several inmates to temporarily leave prison, including labor unionist Reza Shahabi and another human rights attorney, Mohammad Ali Dadkahah. Such furloughs, occasionally given to nonviolent offenders, may be a test to see how the inmates spend their days outside Evin Prison.

When asked whether Sotoudeh was told not to talk to journalists, Khandan said, “It is a recommendation to any inmate who is taking a leave, to not talk with media, in general.”

Khandan also expressed hope that Iranian authorities would extend her period of leave.

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Emily Alpert in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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