Nasrin Sotoudeh yet another woman in Iran jailed for defending peoples rights

My colleague Ann  was on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour this morning, talking about Nasrin Sotoudeh, a human rights lawyer in Iran who was sentenced this week to eleven years in jail.

Her conviction was for "acting against the national security", "propaganda against the regime" and "membership of Human Rights Defenders Centre", a rights organisation presided over by the Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi. Our researchers spoke to her husband and her lawyer, both of whom confirmed that she is not even a member of this organisation.

Earlier this week, Nobel peace laureate Dr Shirin Ebadi told Channel 4 News that she has concerns about the health of Nasrin, who has reportedly lost over 13 kilos since her arrest.

Nasrin’s husband, Reza Khandan, was also summoned to court for speaking to the media about his wife's condition in jail.

Sadly Nasrin is one of many human rights lawyers, campaigners and journalists who are wither detained or facing jail for the peaceful expression of their opinions. At any moment, women’s rights activists Fatemeh Masjedi and Maryam Bidgoli could be sent to prison for six months for peacefully collecting signatures for a petition demanding an end to discrimination against women in law in Iran.

Both are members of the One Million Signatures Campaign (also known as the Campaign for Equality), a grassroots movement working towards an end to discrimination. The authorities have impeded the work of the campaign and arrested dozens of womens rights defenders since its launch in 2006.

On 29 December 2010, both were summoned to report within three days to prison officials in Qom to begin serving a six-month prison sentence. They are currently free pending further legal challenges against their convictions and sentences, but Amnesty International fears they could be imprisoned at any moment.

Similarly, Ronak Safarzadeh is serving five years in prison for membership of an armed Kurdish opposition group and one year for propaganda against the state, yet according to her lawyer, Ronak’s activities were limited to work with an NGO affiliated to the Campaign for Equality. Ronak’s lawyer says that the evidence presented in court did not substantiate claims that Ronak has ever used or advocated violence.

Amnesty is calling on the Iranian authorities to stop persecuting human rights defenders and release all prisoners of conscience held just for expressing their peaceful opinions. Take action for Ronak and others here.

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