In an open letter to the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) has called for the immediate release of human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.
The letter, signed by IBAHRI Co-Chairs, Hans Corell and Michael Kirby, expresses concern that “Ms Sotoudeh has been targeted as a result of her fulfilling her legitimate duties as a legal professional”, and that the arbitrary detention is “related to her recent actions and advocacy”.
As well as her involvement in human rights cases, such as injust imprisonments, Ms Sotoudeh has represented several women arrested for protesting the compulsory hijab law, which requires all women to wear a head covering in public.
IBAHRI says reports indicate that Ms Sotoudeh was arrested in absentia and that no information was provided to her relating to the alleged offence or official charges. However, during interrogation, she was informed that she had been charged with the offences of ‘propaganda against the state’ and ‘assembly and collusion’.
Recent amendments to Article 48 of Iran’s Code of Criminal Procedure 2015 mandate that Ms Sotoudeh select her defence lawyer from a shortlist of lawyers approved by the head of the judiciary.
Mr Corell and Mr Kirby say the amendments infringe on the rights of individuals to call upon the assistance of a lawyer of their choice. “It is wrong in principle and contrary to international law for officers of the state to limit so significantly the freedom of an accused person to select a lawyer of their choice. It is fundamentally inconsistent with the requirement of manifest fairness and due process in the legal proceedings.”