Jailed Iranian human rights lawyer moved to new prison despite health concerns

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Jailed Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh has been moved to a women’s detention center outside the capital Tehran instead of receiving the hospital treatment she needs, her husband said Wednesday.

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The UN has called on Iran to free Sotoudeh, a winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov prize, and other political prisoners excluded from a push to empty jails amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Nasrin called me yesterday (Tuesday) to tell me she’s been transferred straight (from Tehran’s Evin jail) to the one in Qarchak,” more than 30 kilometers (20 miles) away, her husband Reza Khandan told AFP.

“We had been expecting her to be sent to hospital for an angiogram” as decided by “the medical commission at Evin prison,” he said.

A prison guard stands along a corridor in Tehran's Evin prison June 13, 2006. (AP)
A prison guard stands along a corridor in Tehran's Evin prison June 13, 2006. (AP)

Khandan has said that health issues prompted Sotoudeh, 57, to end a hunger strike lasting more than 45 days to push for the release of political prisoners during the pandemic.

The lawyer was sentenced in 2019 to serve 12 years in jail for defending women arrested for protesting compulsory headscarf laws in the Islamic republic.

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet on October 6 expressed deep concern over the deteriorating situation of rights activists, lawyers and political prisoners held in Iran as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

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“People detained solely for their political views or other forms of activism in support of human rights should not be imprisoned at all, and such prisoners, should certainly not be treated more harshly or placed at greater risk,” she said.

“I am very concerned that Nasrin Sotoudeh’s life is at risk,” Bachelet said.

A system of temporary releases to reduce the populations in severely overcrowded prisons, introduced by Iran in February to rein in transmission of Covid-19, has benefited some 120,000 inmates, although a number have since been required to return, her office said.

But it said that prisoners sentenced to more than five years for “national security” offenses were excluded.

The pandemic has cost more 31,000 lives in Iran out of 545,000 declared cases, according to official figures released Wednesday.

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