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German lawmakers demand release of Nasrin Sotoudeh

John Silk with dpa
November 12, 2020

The Iranian human rights activist was sentenced to jail for disseminating "subversive propaganda." Sotoudeh denies all charges, saying she only peacefully fought for women's rights and against the death penalty.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, Iran
Image: Arash Ashourinia/CC0 1.0 /Right Livelihood Awards 2020

A group of German lawmakers released a signed statement on Thursday demanding the "unconditional" permanent release of Iranian human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh, who was named a Right Livelihood Laureate last month.

The 38 signatories included Bundestag Vice-President Claudia Roth, Dr Anton Hofreiter (Chairperson of the Green Parliamentary group), Gyde Jensen (FDP), Bärbel Kofler (SPD), Gysi Gregor (Die Linke) and Michael Brand (CDU).

"We express our full solidarity with Ms. Sotoudeh, and we will continue to stand by her and all other human rights defenders pursuing the respect of fundamental freedoms for all Iranians," the parliamentarians wrote.

The letter, along with a video message and the social media campaign #StandUp4Nasrin, comes just days after Iranian authorities released Sotoudeh on temporary medical leave.

Together with the Right Livelihood Foundation, the lawmakers demanded that Iranian authorities free Sotoudeh permanently and drop all charges against her.

The open letter also urges Iran to guarantee that all human rights defenders are able to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals.

Who is Nasrin Sotoudeh?

Nasrin Sotoudeh is a political prisoner in the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran. Sotoudeh was originally detained in June 2018. She was sentenced to a total of 38 years imprisonment and 148 lashes in March 2019.

Sotoudeh’s health has deteriorated rapidly in the past months. And this week, her husband Resa Chandrin wrote on Facebook his wife had contracted the coronavirus while in prison.

While in detention, Sotoudeh has conducted several hunger strikes to raise attention to the plight of political prisoners. Most recently, she conducted a 40-day hunger strike demanding the release of all political prisoners held amidst deplorable conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Given Sotoudeh’s precarious health condition, the lawmakers also called for her to receive the medical care she needs.

Read more: Iran's Nasrin Sotoudeh — from human rights lawyer to hunger striker

The campaign to free Nasrin Sotoudeh

In a video released alongside the open letter, parliamentarians called for international support for Sotoudeh, urging everyone to "Stand up for Nasrin."

The online campaign launched by the Right Livelihood Foundation in coordination with PEN America, using the hashtag #StandUp4Nasrin, is meant to gather support for Sotoudeh around the world.

Gyde Jensen, head of the Human Rights Committee in the German Parliament, told DW there needed to be a steady application of international pressure. 

"I think the Iranian regime needs to justify its actions against human rights lawyers," she said. "And Nasrin Sotoudeh's is one of the most important figures at the moment. And she's leading the fight for a better human rights situation."

Read more: Iran 'releases' British-Iranian aid worker for three days

On October 1, she was named one of the 2020 Right Livelihood Laureates "for her fearless activism, at great personal risk, to promote political freedoms and human rights in Iran."

John Silk Editor and writer for English news, as well as the Culture and Asia Desks.@JSilk