November 30, 2010

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic
His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Shoahada Street, Qom
Islamic Republic of Iran
Head of the Judiciary
Ayatollah Sadeqh Larijani
Howzeh Riyasat-e Qoveh Qazaiyeh
(Office of the Head of the Judiciary)
Pasteur St., Vali Asr Ave., south of Serah-e Jomhouri
Tehran 1316814737
Islamic Republic of Iran

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,500 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our grave concern regarding the arrest of writer Nasrin Sotoudeh. 

According to our information, on August 29, 2010, security officers raided Sotoudeh’s home and office and confiscated her files and other documents. Sotoudeh, 47, a prominent writer, journalist and human rights lawyer, was summoned to the special court in Evin Prison on September 4, 2010, and arrested on charges of “propaganda against the state,” “cooperating with the Association of Human Rights Defenders,” and “conspiracy to disturb order.”

Sotoudeh’s lawyer was not allowed to represent her in court or accompany her during questioning. She remains detained in solitary confinement in Evin Prison, where she has been on hunger strike for much of the time since her arrest, and there are mounting concerns for her welfare. Her trial was scheduled to begin on November 16, 2010, but has reportedly been postponed. Since her arrest, Sotoudeh has apparently had very limited access to her family, including her two young children, in direct violation of the Iranian Penal Code, which guarantees the right to weekly visits and to receive phone calls from relatives. 

It is believed that Sotoudeh is being targeted for her human rights work and writing. As a lawyer, she specializes in women’s and children’s rights, and has written multiple articles on these issues. Sotoudeh has represented many women’s rights activists, including Parvin Ardalan, as well as many imprisoned opposition activists who were arrested in the unprecedented crackdown on dissent following the presidential elections in Iran in 2009. Sotoudeh has also worked as a journalist for several reformist newspapers, including Jame’e.

PEN American Center strongly protests the arrest and continued detention of Nasrin Sotoudeh solely for her critical writings and peaceful activism. We believe that her arrest is part of a larger crackdown on dissent in Iran, and therefore call for her immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory. We also call for solid assurances that Sotoudeh has full access to family visits, legal representation and any necessary medical care while in detention.

Thank you for your urgent attention to this critical matter.

Hannah Pakula                                           
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee           
Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: President
His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
The Presidency,
Palestine Avenue,
Azerbaijan Intersection
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

His Excellency Mr. Mohammad Khazaee
Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the UN
Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the United Nations
622 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 867-7086

>> Back to Rapid Action