New York City, December 4, 2012—PEN American Center is relieved to learn that lawyer and journalist Nasrin Sotoudeh today suspended her 48-day hunger strike after authorities reportedly lifted travel restrictions on her 12-year-old daughter. PEN praised Sotoudeh’s “principled leadership and profound courage in challenging the multiplying injustices of her ongoing detention,” and called on Iranian authorities to end her family’s ordeal by facilitating her immediate release.
An internationally-recognized champion of human rights in Iran, Nasrin Sotoudeh was sentenced to 11 years in prison, reduced to six years on appeal last year, for giving interviews in defense of her clients following the disputed 2009 presidential elections, including Arash Rahmanipour, who was executed after a trial that did not conform to international standards of fairness. She began a hunger strike in Tehran’s Evin Prison on October 17, 2012, to protest prison conditions and a travel ban placed on her 12-year-old daughter, Mehraveh—a move she and her husband, Reza Khandan, believed could be the first step toward filing charges against the child. Sotoudeh was subsisting on sugar water and salt water, and her weight has dropped under 95 pounds. In recent days her blood pressure had reportedly plummeted to dangerous lows.
“We are grateful to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay and to all those around the world who expressed alarm about Nasrin Sotoudeh’s situation in recent days,” said Larry Siems, director of PEN American Center’s Freedom to Write and International Programs. “As she recovers, we hope she will be fortified by the knowledge of this international support—and we hope the Iranian authorities will do the right thing and facilitate her unconditional release.”
“Nasrin Sotoudeh embodies the bravery of the Iranian people’s struggle for the rule of law and a vibrant civil society,” said Peter Godwin, president of PEN American Center. “That she was imprisoned at all is appalling. That she was forced to risk her own health to end the vindictive persecution of family members has shocked consciences in Iran and around the world.”
“Now is the time for everyone who shares Nasrin’s unbending commitment to protecting the rights of the Iranian people to stand with her and call for her freedom,” Godwin concluded.
Nasrin Sotoudeh is the recipient of the 2011 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, and recently was named the co-winner of the 2012 Sakharov Prize, given by the European Parliament.
PEN American Center is the largest of the 144 centers of PEN International, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled. It defends writers and journalists from all over the world who are imprisoned, threatened, persecuted, or attacked in the course of carrying out their profession.
For more information contact:
Sarah Hoffman, (212) 334-1660 ext. 111