Iran frees jailed human rights lawyer – husband

Nasrin Sotoudeh was serving a six-year sentence after being arrested in September 2010.

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Yeganeh Torbati

Imprisoned Iranian lawyer and human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh has been freed by the authorities, her husband said on Wednesday.

Ms Sotoudeh had been serving a six-year sentence after being arrested in September 2010 and convicted of spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security.

Her husband Reza Khandan said Ms Sotoudeh was dropped off at their home by prison authorities on Tuesday night.

“It’s not a temporary release, it’s freedom,” Mr Khandan said by phone from Tehran. “They put her in a car and dropped her off at the house.”

The Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, who took office last month, pledged during his election campaign to ease some political and social restrictions, and his supporters have called for the release of political prisoners.

However, authorities gave Ms Sotoudeh no reason for the release and offered no details on who had ordered it, Mr Khandan said.

“We are all so happy from the depths of our hearts,” said Mr Khandan. He and Ms Sotoudeh have two children.

“But we are waiting for the last prisoner to leave prison,” he said. “Our joy will be complete then. The moment we are happy we think of others, those women who have been in prison for years without a single hour of furlough. It makes it difficult to be fully happy.”

An Iranian opposition news site, Kaleme, reported yesterday that authorities had released other seven female political prisoners.

Ms Sotoudeh had defended journalists and rights activists including Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi. She also represented Zahra Bahrami, a woman with dual Iranian and Dutch nationality who was hanged in January 2011 on drug trafficking charges.

Last year, Ms Sotoudeh held a hunger strike for nearly 50 days to protest at authorities’ treatment of her young daughter, who was subjected to a travel ban.

* Reuters