Update: Iran: Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh's Jail Sentence is Reduced


An appeals court in Iran has reduced the prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh's jail sentence to six years, her husband said.

The 45-year-old lawyer, who has represented several political activists and protesters arrested in recent years, has been kept in Tehran's notorious Evin prison since last September. In Evin, she is spending time with some of the prisoners she defended in court.

She was originally sentenced in January to 11 years in jail and banned for 20 years from working as a lawyer or travelling abroad, for the offences of "acting against the national security", "propaganda against the regime" and "membership of Human Rights Defenders Centre" – a rights organisation presided over by the Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi.

Speaking by phone from Tehran, Sotoudeh's husband, Reza Khandan said that his wife's ban from working as a lawyer had been reduced to 10 years.

Sotoudeh, a mother of two children aged three and 11, fell foul of the authorities after highlighting juvenile executions in Iran and representing activists caught in the aftermath of the disputed presidential elections in 2009. According to Human Rights Watch, Iran executed at least one juvenile offender in 2010, and five in 2009.

The lawyer's supporters describe the charges against her as bogus and insubstantial. They said recently that she has refused to accept visits from her children because her son and daughter were traumatised each time they saw her in prison.

Sotoudeh has repeatedly gone on hunger strike in protest at her arrest and being deprived of her rights while in jail, such as access to her lawyer and family.

In reaction to the new development in Sotoudeh's case, Shadi Sadr, an award-winning Iranian human rights lawyer, said the reduction in her sentence showed "Iran cares about the international attention". Sadr was briefly arrested in Iran herself and now lives in exile in London.

Sotoudeh's case has drawn widespread international condemnation for the Iranian regime and the British foreign secretary, William Hague, highlighted her case in a speech on Tuesday.

"It is sad to see that activists are arrested, their lawyers are arrested and the lawyers of the lawyers have also been arrested," said Sadr in an interview with the Guardian. One of Sotoudeh's lawyers, Abdolfattah Soltani has also been arrested.

In January, the Law Society, which represents solicitors in England and Wales, joined international organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to urge Iran to release Sotoudeh.

By Saeed Kamali Dehghan