Jailed Iranian rights lawyer hospitalised ‘with heart problems’ amid hunger strike

Nasrin Sotoudeh, 57, began striking on August 11 from her prison cell to protest the risks that political prisoners in Iran face amid the coronavirus pandemic

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 18, 2013, Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh smiles at her house in Tehran after being freed following three years in prison.  The prize-winning Iranian lawyer is over three weeks into a hunger strike to draw attention to the plight of political prisoners in the country during the Covid-19 pandemic, as international concern grows over the state of her health. Sotoudeh, co-laureate of the European Parliament's prestigious Sakharov prize in 2012, is serving a 12-year sentence in Tehran's Evin prison, imposed last year, after she defended women arrested for protesting compulsory headscarf laws.

 / AFP / Behrouz MEHRI
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A leading Iranian human rights lawyer has been hospitalised, a month after beginning a hunger strike seeking better prison conditions and the release of political prisoners amid the Covid-19 pandemic, her husband said on Saturday.

Reza Khandan wrote on Twitter that healthcare professionals decided to hospitalise his wife, Nasrin Sotoudeh, 57, because of heart and respiratory problems as well as low blood pressure.

Mr Khandan said Ms Sotoudeh was transferred to a hospital in north Tehran from the notorious Evin Prison earlier on Saturday. He added that his wife was in “serious condition”.

Ms Sotoudeh — known for defending activists, opposition politicians and women prosecuted for removing their headscarves — began her hunger strike on August 11 from her prison cell to protest the risks that political prisoners in Iran face amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawyer was arrested for a second time in 2018 on charges of collusion and propaganda against Iran’s rulers and eventually was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes. She must serve at least 12 years under the law.

In prison, Ms Sotoudeh occasionally visited clinics as she suffered chronic gastrointestinal and foot problems.

Earlier this year, Ms Sotoudeh held another five-day hunger strike demanding prisoners be released to protect them from Covid-19.

report on the spread of the coronavirus in Iranian prisons published by Amnesty International in April revealed the regime "deliberately exposes them to the risk of infection in overcrowded prisons under poor hygienic conditions."

Thousands of prisoners have been granted temporary prison leaves to help shield them from the virus, but many have not been included.

Covid-19 has killed more than 24,000 Iranians and infected over 400,000, official figures say. Real numbers are believed to be significantly higher due to a lack of tests available and many cases with no or mild symptoms.