Washington, DC – Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh has reportedly ended her forty-nine day hunger strike in Tehran’s Evin prison amid reports that a travel ban imposed on her twelve year old daughter has been lifted by Iranian authorities.
Sotoudeh, 49, was arrested on September 4th, 2010, for alleged acts against national security and the spread of propaganda. The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran considers Sotoudeh a prisoner of conscience and numerous human rights organizations have called for her immediate release.
Before being jailed, Sotoudeh worked to protect journalists and other human rights activists, most notably, Shirin Ebadi, winner of a 2003 Nobel Peace Prize. Sotoudeh herself was recently named one of this year’s winners of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, awarded by the European Union.
Sotoudeh’s original sentence was 11 years imprisonment, a twenty year ban on the practice of law, and a twenty year ban on leaving Iran. Upon appeal, her sentence was reduced to six years imprisonment and a ten year ban on the practice of law.
According to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI), Sotoudeh’s hunger strike began on October 17th, 2012, as her response to a June 2012 travel ban that was imposed on her twelve year old daughter and prison visitation restrictions placed on her family.
The UN, alongside several human rights groups, condemned the imprisonment of Sotoudeh as a violation of human rights, noting the increasing frequency of jailed Iranian activists. Most recently, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that she was very worried about Sotoudeh’s health. Pillay had also called for a lifting of this travel ban and other restrictions imposed on Sotoudeh’s family.
Meanwhile, Victoria Nuland of the U.S. State Department recently called on Iran to release Sotoudeh, as well as over 30 other female prisoners of conscience in Evin.
These statements followed reports from Sotoudeh’s family that she had lost a substantial amount of weight and was suffering from unusually low blood pressure. Reports further indicated that she had not received medical care, and beginning October 31st, had spent twenty days in solitary confinement over the launch of her hunger strike earlier that month.
Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, described her conditions in solitary confinement, saying, “There are no facilities in solitary confinement. She was just given a book, her eyeglasses, and a heating pad. She is currently living in a cell with three walls and a door and those items I just listed.”
Khandan also told ICHRI that on a recent visit to the prison, Sotoudeh had been unable to drink any salt or sugar solutions, as a result of an upset stomach. He expressed fears that she would very soon likely have to be transported to the hospital. He also stated that, though Evin is run by Iran’s Prisons Organization under the Iranian Judiciary, Sotoudeh had been placed in Ward 209, which is run by the Intelligence Ministry, directly under the Supreme Leader.
The Iranian government, despite these reports, had maintained throughout the hunger strike that Sotoudeh‘s health was in good condition. Nevertheless, according to the semi-official Labour News Agency, a parliamentary commission was set to visit Sotoudeh to evaluate her current state and, if necessary, make an inquiry with Iran’s justice minister.
National Iranian American Council has condemned the Iranian government’s imprisonment of Sotoudeh and other prisoners of conscience as a violation of Iran’s domestic and international human rights obligations and has called for the release of Sotoudeh and all Iranian prisoners of conscience.