Iran: Deterioration of Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh’s health while in detention, and arbitrary arrest of her daughter

Urgent Appeal
en fa

New information
IRN 001 / 0618 / OBS 085.2
Arbitrary detention /
Deterioration of health condition /
Arbitrary arrest
August 21, 2020

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Iran.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by the League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) about the hunger strike and consequent deterioration of the health of Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh, a human rights lawyer and 2012 laureate of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize, and of the arbitrary arrest of her daughter, Ms. Mehraveh Khandan. Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh is currently detained in Tehran’s Evin prison.

According to the information received, on August 17, 2020, at around 11am, Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh’s daughter, Ms. Mehraveh Khandan, was arrested by five male security agents at her home in Tehran and taken to Evin prison’s security court. The reasons for her arrest were not known at the time, but her family later reported that she was accused of physically assaulting a female security officer who had warned her about wearing a hijab in Evin prison in 2019. The Observatory believes that this action against Ms. Mehraveh Khandan was taken in an attempt to pressure Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh and in retaliation against her hunger strike, which was followed by scores of political prisoners [1]. Ms. Mehraveh Khandan was released on bail based on personal guarantee after a few hours.

Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh went on a hunger strike on August 11, 2020 to protest against: the continued arbitrary detention of all human rights defenders and political prisoners amid the COVID-19 pandemic; the abysmal conditions of detention of human rights defenders and political prisoners in the country; and multiple breaches to their right to a fair trial, calling for their immediate release. Following the arrest of her daughter, Ms. Sotoudeh mentioned to fellow inmates that she would refrain from drinking liquids in protest to her daughter’s arrest. On August 19, 2020, at around 7pm, Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh was transferred to the clinic of Evin prison after her health deteriorated due to her hunger strike.

The Observatory recalls that Nasrin Sotoudeh’s has been detained since June 13, 2018 and was sentenced to a total of 38.5 years in jail and 148 lashes (see background information). Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh’s bank account was frozen by the Iranian authorities in May 2020, and the efforts of her family members and lawyer to obtain an explanation have been unsuccessful until now.

The Observatory expresses its deepest concern about the continuing arbitrary detention and harassment of Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh, as well as the arbitrary arrest of her daughter, which appear to be only aimed at punishing Ms. Sotoudeh for her legitimate human rights activities.

The Observatory urges the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh and all the human rights defenders detained in the country. The Observatory also calls on the Iranian authorities to guarantee the physical integrity and psychological well-being of all detained human rights defenders, taking into account the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Background information:

In August 2015, Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh was summoned for interrogation following the renewal of her lawyer’s licence, nine months after she held a sit-in to protest against a three-year suspension of her licence. The summons did not specify any charges. However, she was unable to attend the interrogation due to a surgery on her foot at the time. Her husband went to the court in her place and presented medical documents regarding her condition and her inability to respond to the summons.

She was then given three weeks to go to the Islamic Revolution Court. However, when she did go, she was not allowed in, as a number of lawyers are barred from entering the court’s building. Ms. Sotoudeh was also summoned to appear before the Islamic Revolution Court on September 4, 2016. However, she was not allowed inside the court on the pretext that the colour and design of her clothing were not proper and on this occasion she was neither tried nor notified of any pending charges. However, it was established after her arrest in 2018 that the court had sentenced her in absentia to five years on the same day.

On June 13, 2018, security forces arrested Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh at her home in Tehran and transferred her to the capital’s Evin prison. Upon her arrest, she was presented with an arrest warrant and was told that she was being taken to serve a five-year prison sentence, which had been handed down against her in absentia. Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh was not shown the court’s ruling related to the sentence and had not been informed of the conviction or the sentence prior to her arrest. This is in flagrant contravention of domestic and international fair trial standards. Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh filed an appeal against the sentence.

On March 9, 2019, Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh received a copy of a court ruling issued after a one-day hearing held in absentia on December 30, 2018, by Branch 28 of the Islamic Revolution Court in Tehran. The court found her guilty and sentenced her to 33.5 years in jail and 148 lashes on the following seven charges: “gathering and collusion against national security” (Article 610 of the Islamic Penal Code), “spreading propaganda against the system” (Article 500), “effective membership of the illegal and anti-security splinter groups Defenders of Human Rights Centre, LEGAM [2] and National Council of Peace” (Article 498); “encouraging people to commit corruption and prostitution, and providing the means for it” (Article 639), “appearing without the sharia-sanctioned hijab at the premises of the magistrate’s office” (Article 638); “disrupting public order and calm” (Article 618) and “spreading falsehoods with intent to disturb the public opinion” (Article 698).

Judge Mohammad Moqisseh sentenced her to the maximum punishment in each and every case, i.e. a total of 29 years. In addition, he used the provisions of Article 134 of the same law to impose four more years of imprisonment on the ground that Ms. Sotoudeh had committed “more than three crimes.” No lawyer represented her before the court, as she refused to appoint a lawyer to protest against provisions restricting the right of those accused of national security crimes to be represented by a lawyer of their choosing.

The Prosecutor argued in the indictment that Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh “removed her hijab during family visits in Evin prison” and “removed her headscarf at the Prosecutor’s Office”; “was a prominent, active and organised member of Defenders of Human Rights Centre, LEGAAM and National Council of Peace”; “received the amount of 50,000 Euros in disguise of Sakharov prize for her subversive actions”; “was involved in a call for a referendum”; “helped the establishment of house churches”; “made false statements about detention of women who took off their hijab, accusing police agents of abuse”; “encouraged the people to commit corruption and prostitution"; and “was involved, alongside elements affiliated to the Gonabadi Order of Dervishes, in action outside the Evin prison.” Ms. Sotoudeh decided not to appeal the ruling to denounce the lack of access to fair trial. The prosecutor sent the sentence to appeal and it was upheld. She will have to serve the different portions of the sentence concurrently, i.e. 12 years in addition to the previous five-year prison sentence.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Iran asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh and all other human rights defenders in Iran;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh and all other human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in Iran;

iii. Drop all charges against Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh and, meanwhile, ensure that all judicial proceedings against her are carried out in full compliance with her right to a fair trial, in accordance with international law;

iv. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh, her daughter, Ms. Mehraveh Khandan, and all the human rights defenders in Iran, and ensure they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance;

v. Conform to all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular its Articles 1, 6, 9, 11 and 12;

vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Iran.


• Leader of the Islamic Republic, H.E. Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei, Fax: + 98 21 441 2030, Email:; Twitter: @khamenei_ir
• President Hassan Rouhani, Islamic Republic of Iran, Fax: + 98 21 644 54811; Email:; Twitter: @HassanRouhani (English) and @Rouhani_ir (Persian).
• Head of the Judiciary, H.E. Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, Islamic Republic of Iran, Fax: +98 21 879 6671 / +98 21 3 311 6567, Email: / /
• Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Islamic Republic of Iran, Fax: +98-21-66743149;
• Secretary General, High Council for Human Rights, Mr. Mohammed Javad Larijani, Islamic Republic of Iran. Email:
• H.E. Mr. Javad Amin-Mansour, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 7330203, Email:
• H.E. Mr. Peiman Seadat, Ambassador, Embassy of Iran in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 762 39 15. Email:

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Iran in your respective countries.

Paris-Geneva, August 21, 2020

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail:
• Tel and fax FIDH +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
• Tel and fax OMCT +41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / +41 22 809 49 29

[1] Ms. Sotoudeh’s hunger strike was followed by at least five male political prisoners in Evin prison, one female political activist in Qarchak, and 72 political prisoners in Greater Tehran prison (Fashafuyeh) protesting against the violations of the standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners and of their right to health, in particular in the context of spread of COVID-19. The 72 in Fashafuyeh started their hunger strike on August 16 and ended it on August 17 after receiving promises of improvement in their detention conditions. Some of the striking prisoners explicitly declared their support for Ms. Sotoudeh.
[2] Campaign for “Step by Step Abolition of the Death Penalty”.

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