Iranian human rights attorney drops hunger strike
TEHRAN -- Jailed Iranian human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh has halted her hunger strike after the Iranian judiciary agreed to drop a travel ban against her daughter, her husband said Tuesday.
Sotoudeh had endured nearly seven weeks without food, drinking salt and sugar solutions, to protest her 12-year-old daughter Mehrave being banned from leaving the country. The couple claimed their daughter was being punished for the alleged crimes of her mother, who has defended dissidents.
While the daughter was not planning to leave the country, Sotoudeh and her husband Reza Khandan feared the travel ban was a sign that authorities were planning to bring charges against the girl.
Khandan went with a group of female activists to the Iranian parliament on Tuesday, where they met with reformist lawmaker Mohammad Reza Tabesh, who in turn negotiated with the deputy speaker and speaker Ali Larijani to obtain an agreement from the head of the judiciary, Khandan said.
“They agreed to close the dossier of Mehrave and she is no longer banned from leaving the country and there are no charges against her,” Khandan said Tuesday.
The family reunited Tuesday evening in the administration department of Evin Prison, the husband said. Sotoudeh, who had earlier been restricted to talking to her children behind a glass partition, was allowed to hug her son and daughter.
“There she stopped her hunger strike and started eating in front of us,” he said.
Sotoudeh’s weeks on hunger strike left her feeble and reduced her weight to less than 95 pounds, Khandan told the Times as her protest wore on this month. Reports of her deteriorating health led Iranian lawmakers to plan a prison visit to investigate; the U.S. State Department raised concerns about her health last week, saying that Iran had a history of letting prisoners die from hunger strikes.
The attorney is serving six years in prison after being convicted of spreading propaganda against the government and acting against national security. Human rights groups contend she was jailed to halt her outspoken defense of dissidents, including a client who was abruptly executed without notice.
The United Nations high commissioner for human rights called again Tuesday for Sotoudeh to be released along with other detained human rights activists. Iranian authorities often target the families of human rights defenders, “a disturbing trend apparently aimed at curbing the freedoms of expression, opinion and association,” spokesman Rupert Colville said in a Tuesday briefing.
Emily Alpert in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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