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UN rights chief encourages Iranian Government to build on recent prisoner release

United Nations headquarters, New York City
United Nations headquarters, New York City
NEW YORK – The United Nations human rights chief has welcomed this week’s release of 12 political prisoners in Iran, including a number of women’s rights activists, political activists and journalists, and encouraged Tehran to build on this positive step.

Among those released on Wednesday by the new Government of President Hassan Rouhani was Nasrin Sotoudeh, an internationally recognised human rights activist and recipient of the 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Ms. Sotoudeh served half of a six-year sentence that was imposed on charges of ‘acting against national security,’ not wearing hejab (Islamic dress) during a videotaped message, propaganda against the system, and membership of the ‘Centre for Human Rights Defenders.’ She was also given a 10-year ban on exercising her profession as a lawyer.

“Activists like Nasrin Sotoudeh can make a major contribution to improving the protection of human rights in Iran, and we urge the Government to build on this positive step by creating space for human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists by allowing them to exercise their professions without harassment or sanctions by the state,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for High Commissioner Navi Pillay.

“We also call upon the Government to remove any restrictions placed on Ms. Sotoudeh’s travel and to rescind the ban on her practicing as a lawyer,” he told reporters in Geneva.

The High Commissioner also welcomed the recent news that the death sentence imposed on Iranian blogger Saeed Malekpour has been overturned.

She encouraged the Government to release all those held for exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression and association, said Mr. Colville.

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