By Babak Dehghanpisheh
GENEVA, March 11 – Nasrin Sotoudeh, an internationally renowned human rights lawyer jailed in Iran, was handed a new sentence on Monday which her husband said was 38 years in prison and 148 lashes.
Sotoudeh, who has represented opposition activists including women prosecuted for removing their mandatory head scarf, was arrested in June and charged with spying, spreading propaganda and insulting Iran‘s supreme leader, her lawyer said.
She was jailed in 2010 for spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security – charges she denied – and was released after serving half her six-year term. The European Parliament awarded her the Sakharov human rights prize.
A judge at a revolutionary court in Tehran, Mohammad Moqiseh, said on Monday Sotoudeh had been sentenced to five years for assembling against national security and two years for insulting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, wrote on Facebook that the sentence was decades in jail and 148 lashes, unusually harsh even for Iran which cracks down hard on dissent and regularly imposes death sentences for some crimes.
The news comes days after Iran appointed a new head of the judiciary – Ebrahim Raisi, a hardline cleric who is a protégé of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The appointment is seen as weakening the political influence of President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate.
Iran, often accused of human rights abuse, said on Monday it had allowed U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore to visit last week at the head of a “technical mission”.
The visit, confirmed by a U.N. official, appeared to be the first in many years by U.N. human rights investigators who have been denied access by the government.
The U.N. investigator on human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, raised Sotoudeh’s case at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, saying that last week she “was reportedly convicted of charges relating to her work and could face a lengthy prison sentence.”
“Worrying patterns of intimidation, arrest, prosecution, and ill-treatment of human rights defenders, lawyers, and labour rights activists signal an increasingly severe state response,” Rehman said.
(Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh; additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay Editing by Robin Pomeroy)