Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was recalled to prison today to continue serving a sentence of up to 38 years with 148 lashes, her husband revealed. Sotoudeh, 57, was temporarily released last month for medical treatment after undertaking a hunger strike and testing positive for Covid-19, which is widespread in Iranian prisons.

In a message posted by her husband, Sotoudeh called attention to the case of Swedish-Iranian scientist Ahmadreza Djalali, facing imminent execution for espionage. She wrote:

'They told me to go back to prison and today I will return to prison, where I left behind hundreds of cellmates, a place where I left my heart behind. It’s always this way. Under these circumstances, I don’t like to talk about what it was like being unable to hug my children during these three weeks because of the coronavirus.

'But I do have a duty to declare my concern about Ahmadreza Djalali’s situation and appeal to everyone who can muster support to pay attention to his case. Free Ahmadreza Djalali, today.'

In an open letter to Ali Hosseini Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights (RWCHR), the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), and PEN America called for the immediate quashing of Sotoudeh’s ’cruel and unjust sentence’. 

The open letter documents how Sotoudeh’s convictions and sentences violate Iran’s constitution and obligations under international law. Sotoudeh was convicted in 2019 on charges related to ‘national security’ threats and ‘encouraging corruption and prostitution’, because of her peaceful advocacy, including representing women who removed their headscarves in public.

The sentence against Sotoudeh is the longest imposed on anyone in recent years, the letter states, ’simply for advancing the very goals listed in Article 3 of Iran’s constitution, including ”the abolition of all forms of undesirable discrimination… [and] securing the multifarious rights of all citizens, both women and men, and providing legal protection for all, as well as equality of all before the law”.’

IBAHRI co-chairs the Hon Michael Kirby and Anne Ramberg, in a joint statement commented: ‘The serious deterioration of Nasrin Sotoudeh’s health is a direct result of the maltreatment she has received while in custody. The manifestly inapplicable and disproportionate charges brought against Ms Sotoudeh that have resulted in a predetermined and discriminatory presumption of guilt and her continued detention, must be quashed.'