The Iranian authorities must immediately end the harassment of the family of prominent human rights lawyer and prisoner of conscience Nasrin Sotoudeh, Amnesty International said as a travel ban was imposed on Nasrin Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan and their 12-year old daughter, Mehraveh Khandan.
Nasrin Sotoudeh is currently serving a six-year prison sentence in Tehran’s Evin Prison on the vaguely worded charges of “spreading propaganda against the system” and “acting against national security” through membership of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders. She denies the charges.
“Imposing a travel ban on Nasrin Sotoudeh’s young daughter and her husband is a gesture, clearly intended to force her family to stop campaigning for her release,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“The Iranian authorities must not only lift the travel ban and stop harassing Nasrin Sotoudeh’s family but also release Nasrin Sotoudeh immediately and unconditionally, as she is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for the peaceful expression of her beliefs and for her legitimate human rights work.”
A human rights lawyer who has represented Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi amongst others, Nasrin Sotoudeh was arrested in September 2010.
She was sentenced to 11 years in prison in January 2011, but in September the sentence was reduced to six. At the same time she was also banned from leaving the country and from practising law for 20 years, reduced on appeal to 10 years.
Prison authorities have repeatedly placed her in solitary confinement and blocked her children from visiting, including in February this year, apparently because prison guards considered Mehraveh Khandan’s school uniform did not fully comply with the state-imposed dress code.
The human rights lawyer’s family have been harassed frequently in the past. In January last year, her husband Reza Khandan, who has publicly campaigned for his wife, was held overnight at Evin Prison after responding to a summons.
Khandan was questioned for about 10 minutes while blindfolded and then asked to put two of his replies in writing. He was accused of “publishing lies” and “disturbing public opinion” on account of an letter he wrote to the Prosecutor’s Office in which he complained about the conditions of detention of his wife.
He was released the following morning after a guarantee of 500 million Iranian Rials (about US$50,000 or £32,000) was provided. That sum must be paid by the guarantor if Reza Khandan fails to respond to a future summons.
“The harassment of Nasrin Sotoudeh’s family – who are standing up for her rights while she is unjustly imprisoned - is yet another sign of Iran’s overall deteriorating human rights situation,” said Ann Harrison.