World

Iran releases prominent human rights lawyer

Iran has released prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh after keeping her in prison for three years, her husband says.

Nasrin Sotoudeh represented post-election activists, held for 3 years

Iran has released a prominent human rights lawyer after keeping her in prison for three years, her husband said Wednesday.

Authorities brought Nasrin Sotoudeh home and told her she was freed, Reza Khandan told The Associated Press. "We had expected her to come for a short leave but they have told her she is free," he said.

Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh ended a 49-day hunger strike in December 2012 while she was in custody. Arash Ashourinia/AFP/Getty (AFP/Getty Images)

Iranian opposition websites also reported a dozen other prisoners held on security charges after the disputed 2009 election have been released. Among them is Mohsen Aminzadeh, who was deputy foreign minister during the presidency of reformer Mohammad Khatami.

In a statement, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran welcomed the releases and urged President Hassan Rouhani to continue to take concrete steps toward improving the country's "urgent human rights situation" ahead of his scheduled speech to the United Nations on Monday.

Sotoudeh, 49, who defended opposition activists, had been convicted of security offences and was sentenced to six years prison after an appeals process. She began her sentence in September 2011.

Khandan said Sotoudeh will investigate her case in the coming days to learn on what grounds she was freed.

Lawyer for activists arrested after 2009 election

In 2012, Sotoudeh, who represented imprisoned Iranian opposition activists following the disputed June 2009 presidential elections, was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Union.

Khandan said, "Sotoudeh was unaware that she is going to be released when authorities picked her up from prison today."

"I am happy that she joined us particularly as our younger child is starting school for the first time," said Khandan.

"We are very happy," said Khandan. "But we will be happier if other prisoners are freed, those who have not had a single hour of leave over the past years. We all belong to the same family, the family of prisoners."

The release of Sotoudeh, mother of two, may be linked to the recent election of Rouhani, who has promised openness both inside and outside Iran.

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