Rights Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh Summoned to Intelligence Ministry
A few days after a video was posted on YouTube, showing a short speech by human rights lawyer and former prisoner of conscience Nasrin Sotoudeh, she was summoned to the Intelligence Ministry while on a family holiday, according to her husband Reza Khandan’s Facebook page. Also according to Khandan’s next status update on Facebook, Sotoudeh decided not to appear at the Intelligence Ministry due to the illegal way in which she was summoned.
Khandan wrote on his Facebook page on Sunday, March 30, 2014: “We are in Khuzistan Province with the kids for a two-day trip. Moments ago, while shopping in the Dezful bazaar, they contacted us from the Intelligence Ministry and summoned Nasrin and our host for no reason and in an illegal and rude manner. The Intelligence Ministry official told us to appear for questioning in an hour,” wrote Khandan.
The undated video, posted on YouTube on March 28, 2014, shows Nasrin Sotoudeh at a literary gathering, where she receives a standing ovation as she appears on stage. Mohammad Reza Alipayam, the host of the event is a poet who writes satirical poems in which he criticizes the government. Alipayam who writes under the pen name of Haloo was detained and imprisoned for three weeks in 2012.
Recalling her prison ordeal, Sotoudeh recalled her seeing Mohammad Reza Alipayam in the visitation hall of Evin Prison. “When I came here tonight, I remembered that I first saw Mr. Alipayam in that small prison. I am now seeing him in the big prison!” Sotoudeh told the crowd. She said that for about a year, she was not allowed to go to visitation hours along with other women in Evin’s Ward 350, and that her visitation schedule was different from the other women’s. “But in the middle of this, I would find the good fortune in that year to sometimes have my visitation on Mondays, which was the same day as the visitation day for men.” said Sotoudeh.
Talking about the arts and artists, Sotoudeh said, “Art is the best path to get around despotism. Art changes the rules of the game. It can make fun of the serious words of despotism. It can respond to the power of despotism with satire and change the rules this way.”
Referring to Iran’s political prisoners and the Green Movement leaders under house arrest, Sotoudeh said: “I have been free during the recent months. We appear to be free but our hearts are always caught between two groups: those who are imprisoned in their own homes, Mrs. Rahnavard, Mr. Mousavi, and Mr. Karroubi, who are prisoners of conscience, and also [other] prisoners of conscience who are in the prisons of other Iranian cities. They include not only political activists but many civil or ethnic and religious minority activists. Today I wear a shawl among you that was knitted for me by a fellow prisoner from a minority religious group. I wear it remembering them and I thought I would wear it to your gathering.”
Sotoudeh also spoke about the pervasive lack of due process throughout the Iranian judicial system. “We must remember about the prosecution of prisoners of conscience that were carried out without regard for the law, in secret courtrooms, or through security mechanisms. The house arrest of these three [Green Movement leaders] is also an example of arbitrary detentions,” she said.
Sotoudeh also spoke about her imprisoned colleagues. “The cases of lawyers arrested after the  election…I would like to name Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani and Mr. Mohammad Seifzadeh here,” adding that the Iranian government is pursuing revocation of the lawyers’ licenses, including those of herself, Soltani, and Seifzadeh. “The legal profession and the revival of justice was a gift bestowed upon us for safekeeping. With or without a license, we will bestow this gift upon the future,” Sotoudeh promised.
Nasrin Sotoudeh, lawyer and human rights activist and winner of the EU Parliament’s 2012 Sakharov Prize, was imprisoned in September 2010. She was sentenced to 11 years in prison, 20 years’ ban on her legal practice, and 20 years’ ban on foreign travel on charges of “acting against national security, collusion and propaganda against the regime, and membership in the Defenders of Human Rights Center.” An appeals court later reduced her sentence to six years in prison. She was also separately sentenced to a monetary fine for failing to observe the Islamic hejab, or head-covering. Sotoudeh was released in September 2013.