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Rights Activists Express Concern For Nasrin Sotoudeh in Letter to Tehran’s Chief Prosecutor

Sunday 28 October 2012


Change for Equality: A number of women’s rights activists and members of the mothers committee of the One Million Signatures Campaign went to the office of the Tehran Prosecutor to hand deliver a letter, written in protest to the situation of human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. This letter which has been signed by women’s rights activists and their supporters expresses concern over the situation of Nasrin Sotoudeh, who was imprisoned on September 4 2010 and began her second hunger strike in 2 years on October 21, 2012. The letter asks Mr. Jafari Dowlatabadi and the Judiciary to respond positively to the demands of Nasrin Sotoudeh and to observe her legal rights while she is in prison. Those signing this letter, have emphasized that the Judiciary is ultimately responsible for the health and wellbeing of Nasrin Sotoudeh who is objecting to continued harassment of security, prison and court officials of herself and her family, including limits posed on in person visitation with family members and the banning of her 12 year old Dauhter Mehraveh from travel. The signatories of the letter, have urged that the Office of the Prosecutor and the Judiciary to observe the rights of all prisoners and work to ensure them, as a means to not promoting further inequity and injustice.

It should be noted that the European Union gave its most prestigious human rights award, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, on Friday to Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi a fomerly imprisoned filmmaker. Panahi is a longtime supporter of the One Million Signatures Campaign and a steadfast defender of gender equality. The translated text of the open letter appears below.

Open Letter from Iranian Women’s Rights Activists to the Tehran Prosecutor: We Hold the Judiciary Responsible for the Consequences of Nasrin Sotoudeh’s Hunger Strike

The Honorable Tehran Prosecutor

Mr. Jafari-DowlatAbadi

Greetings,

As you know, Nasrin Sotoudeh, a lawyer, human rights defender and women’s rights activist, who was unjustly sentenced to a six year prison term, has been in Evin prison since September 2010. For the second time since her imprisonment, Ms. Sotoudeh started a hunger strike on October 21, 2012. Her first hunger strike which began in October of 2010 and lasted 28 days was to object to the pressures on her and her family.

Despite the passing of two years from the time she was imprisoned, Ms. Sotoudeh has not been granted furlough and despite the fact that in person visits with family members, especially for those prisoners who have young children is a right guaranteed by Iranian law, Ms. Sotoudeh has been denied in person visitation with her family and young children for three months.

The injustice of the sentence issued against Nasrin Sotoudeh notwithstanding, her most basic rights as a prisoner have been repeatedly violated. From providing her access to telephone calls to implementation of limitations on her visitation rights with her children, to the issuance of travel ban for her 12 year daughter, she and her family members have systematically been pressured by officials. As such, it is expected that those who steadfastly defend the sentences issued against political and human rights defenders such as Nasrin and see these sentences in line and in accordance with the laws of the country, should also vigorously advocate the rights of prisoners, as guaranteed by law to be legitimate and wroth upholding. All prisoners have the right to benefit from basic rights such as furloughs and in person visitation rights with their families. So the question remains, why is it that the Judiciary has chosen to be silent in the face of the clear violation of the rights of prisoners?

Mr. Dowlatabadi, Nasrin Sotoudeh has been forced into hunger strike twice over the past two years. Without a doubt, hunger strikes are the last resort of any prisoner taken up as a form of protest and insistence that her demands and rights be adhered to. Hunger strikes are difficult acts of last resort inflicting physical and often irreversible damage to the health of prisoners who are forced to use their bodies as vehicles of protest. Hoda Saber was one example of many prisoners who were forced to resort to a hunger strike. Hoda Saber was a political prisoner who went on hunger strike last year to protest injustice and lost his life as a result.

We, as a group of women’s rights activists, who support and share the views of Nasrin Sotoudeh, want to express our grave concern for her health and wellbeing. At the same time we emphasize that it is ultimately the Judiciary who is responsible for potential negative consequences resulting from Ms. Sotoudeh’s latest hunger strike. We therefore strongly urge you, as Tehran’s Chief Prosecutor, to work to ensure the rights of prisoners and in so doing prevent further inequities and injustices. Any irreversible damage to the health of Nasrin Sotoudhe, resulting from this hunger strike, will also cast its shadow on you.

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