NEW YORK—The conviction of prominent writer, human rights lawyer, activist, and 2011 PEN America Freedom to Write Award honoree Nasrin Sotoudeh on unspecified national security crimes, and news of a potential 34-year prison sentence and 148 lashes, are a grave miscarriage of justice, PEN America said in a statement today.

Sotoudeh was arrested on June 17, 2018, shortly following her legal work supporting women who were facing charges for peacefully protesting Iran’s compulsory hijab law, including criticism of Iranian judicial procedures limiting defendants’ access to a lawyer in security-related cases. According to the Center for Human Rights in Iran, she was tried in absentia on December 30, 2018 (where she refused to appear because she was unable to choose her own lawyer) and has now been convicted of several charges but has not yet received either the verdict or details about the sentence in writing. Her husband Reza Khandan, who was also detained from September to December 2018, was sentenced to six years in prison for posting about his wife’s case on Facebook. 

“After months of detention, Nasrin Sotoudeh’s conviction on a range of national security charges and the possibility of a decades-long prison sentence is a cruel blow,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at PEN America. “Sotoudeh’s pathbreaking work defending women in Iran, as well as her consistent attempts to uphold the rule of law, should not be penalized with such a blatant miscarriage of justice. We once again call on the Iranian authorities to halt their attacks on those who uphold and advocate for human rights through their writings or actions, and to immediately and unconditionally exonerate and release Nasrin Sotoudeh.”

Sotoudeh has spent several previous stints in prison on politically-motivated charges, most recently from 2011 to 2013. In addition the 2011 PEN America Freedom to Write Award, she also received the European Parliament’s 2012 Sakharov Prize.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Manager: [email protected]