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Iran urged to release remaining political prisoners

NEW YORK – Calling the recent prisoner release in Iran “a step in the right direction,” an independent United Nations human rights expert today urged the Government to let go hundreds of others detained for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

“I urge the Government to take further steps to ensure the unconditional release of all political prisoners and to advance the campaign pledges made by President Hassan Rouhani to alleviate the sources of censorship in the country,” said Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran.

In a move that was hailed by both Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, the Government released over a dozen political prisoners last week, including prominent human rights activist and lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, as well as Mahboubeh Karami, human rights activist and member of the One Million Signatures Campaign, and Jila Karamzadeh-Makvandi, supporter of the Mourning Mothers of Laleh Park.

Mr. Shaheed welcomed the Government’s decision to release the prisoners as “a step in the right direction in advancing Iran’s international human rights obligations.”

Stressing the pivotal role of lawyers and human rights defenders in society, the expert called on the Iranian authorities to release other detained lawyers and human rights activists, including Abdolfattah Soltani and Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, who are currently serving sentences for charges that are believed to be related to their work as human rights defenders.

“It is vital for the country’s future that the voices of all its citizens are permitted to play their rightful part in crafting an inclusive future for Iran in the coming years,” Mr. Shaheed said.

He also renewed his call on the Government to engage “meaningfully and constructively” with the UN to improve the country’s human rights record and reiterated his continued interest in visiting Iran.

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes. Since his appointment in August 2011, Mr. Shaheed has made several official requests to the Iranian Government to visit the country.

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