Iran blocks jailed human rights lawyer’s bank account

Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh's husband says the move is designed to cow Iranian rights activists who continue their work after leaving jail

Human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and her husband Reza Khandan. Amnesty International
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Iran has blocked the bank account of a jailed prominent lawyer in a tactic aimed at silencing human rights activists, a campaign group said on Wednesday.

The account of Nasrin Sotoudeh has been frozen since May and efforts by her family and lawyer to regain control of the funds have been unsuccessful, the US-based Centre for Human Rights in Iran said.

Ms Sotoudeh was sentenced in 2019 to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes for colluding against the system and insulting Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The UN and European Union condemned the punishment and the US described it as "beyond barbaric”.

Ms Sotoudeh was detained after representing women arrested on charges of appearing in public without headscarves in protest against Iran’s mandatory dress code.

Her husband, Reza Khandan, said that the order to block the account had been made by the prosecutors in Tehran.

“They want to send a message to those who are willing to go to prison. What we have to say is we won’t step back.”

His wife had previously served half of a six-year sentence and resumed her legal work after she was released in 2014.

Mr Khandan said the authorities “aren’t satisfied with the punishment imposed on his wife, especially when, despite their expectations, she had not been compliant after coming out of prison the last time”.

“This behaviour is a message to civil-rights and political and human-rights activists that if they do something, prison is the least they will be facing.

“The authorities think that prison has lost its effectiveness and dissidents are resuming their activities as soon as they get out of prison.”

The campaign group said that the restriction on Ms Sotoudeh’s finances was a blatant attempt to impose additional punishments on regime critics.

“The authorities in Iran have seen that repeatedly imprisoning Nasrin Sotoudeh and other human rights defenders has not silenced demands for basic civil and political rights, so they are going after them extrajudicially to inflict additional pain on their families,” Hadi Ghaemi, the group’s executive director, said