Iran sentenced an award-winning female human rights lawyer on Monday to 148 lashes and 38 years behind bars for defending Muslim women’s prerogative to remove the Islamic Republic’s mandatory hijab in public.
Her sentence came after she had already served three years of a six-and-a-half year term imposed in 2010 for allegedly disseminating propaganda and conspiring against the state. Nasrin Sotoudeh dismissed the charges as bogus.
On Monday, the human rights group Amnesty International blasted Iran for imposing what it described as a harsh sentence, noting:
Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent Iranian human rights lawyer, has been sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes because of her work defending women’s rights & protesting against Iran’s forced hijab laws. …Nasrin has dedicated her life to peaceful human rights work, including defending women who peacefully protest against Iran’s degrading forced hijab (veiling) laws.
Women and girls in Iran are not allowed to leave their homes unless they cover their hair with a headscarf and cover up their arms and legs with loose clothing. Nasrin wanted to change this, and she was jailed for it.
The cruel nature of her sentence suggests authorities are intensifying their repression of dissenters, Amnesty argues.
“This is the harshest sentence recorded against a human rights defender in Iran in recent years, suggesting that the authorities are stepping up their repression,” it adds.
Javaid Rehman, the U.N. human rights investigator in Iran, raised Sotoudeh’s case at the international body’s headquarters in Geneva this month, indicating that “worrying patterns of intimidation, arrest, prosecution, and ill-treatment of human rights defenders, lawyers, and labor rights activists signal an increasingly severe state response,” the Daily Mail notes.
Sotoudeh is known for providing legal representation to women who face prosecution after protesting against the compulsory hijab in the strict Muslim country.
The 2010 case against the women’s rights defender, rebuked by the international community, stemmed from her representation of dissidents arrested during mass protests the previous year against the disputed re-election of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
This month, “Nasrin Sotoudeh, an internationally renowned human rights lawyer jailed in Iran, was handed maximum sentence for all of her seven convictions” in connection to a different case, the Daily Mail reports.
Citing her unnamed lawyer, it continues, “Sotoudeh, who has represented opposition activists, was arrested last June and charged with spying, spreading propaganda and insulting Iran’s supreme leader.”
An Iranian judge condemned the human rights lawyer to “38 years in prison and 148 lashes,” Khandan wrote, adding, “Five years of prison for the first case , and 33 years with 148 lashes for the second.”
In a statement, Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of-of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), Hadi Ghaemi, described Sotoudeh’s trial as oppressive or “Kaftkaesque,” adding:
Sotoudeh has been sentenced in a Kafkaesque trial severely lacking in international standards of due process. The Iranian Judiciary is punishing Sotoudeh for trying to uphold the rule of law and the right to a fair defense in cases involving defendants facing politically motivated charges. First, they went after the journalists, activists, and dissidents, Now they’re going after their only line of defense.
Nearly 120,000 people have reportedly signed an online petition calling for her release.
Britains’ UNILAD quotes the lawyer’s husband as telling CHRI:
All I can say is that it’s shameful for Iran’s judicial system to issue such a heavy sentence against a human rights activist. This verdict shows that making statements in our country comes with such a high price that an attorney can be sentenced to 44 years for it. I say 44 years because in 2010 she was sentenced to six years in prison for similar charges … This sentence is unjust, illogical and unusual.
News of Sotoudeh’s sentence came after the Shiite powerhouse named a new chief of the judiciary – Ebrahim Raisi, described as a hardline cleric and protege of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iran issued the allegedly harsh sentence after criticizing its regional rival Saudi Arabia for beheading 37 individuals accused of terrorism and crucifying at least one of them.
In 2012, the European Parliament awarded Sotoudeh the Sakharov human rights prize for her work on high-profile cases in Iran, including death row inmates convicted as minors.
Iran has sentenced some women to decades in prison for removing their Islamic headscarves out of protest.