On the morning of December 2, 2020, the authorities at Qarchak Prison contacted human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and ordered her to return to custody. As of last night, she is back behind bars.
The prominent attorney, who is facing a decades-long jail sentence in Iran for her defense of civil rights activists in the country, was released on furlough on Saturday, November 7 this year after a protracted hunger strike and concerns for her health.
Prior to her release, her husband Reza Khandan told IranWire that a prison doctor had diagnosed her with a serious heart problem. During her leave she also tested positive for coronavirus and was quarantining at home.
Mr. Khandan told IranWire that on Monday, November 3 the pair went to see a specialist doctor who sent a letter to a cardiology center, asking for her to undergo an angiography test.
But prison officials have said she must return to prison before undergoing any medical tests. “They insisted that Nasrin return to prison as soon as possible and that she could not be on leave any longer," said Reza Khandan.
Ms. Sotoudeh returned to Qarchak Prison last night. Before she did so, she posted on her Facebook page asking followers not to think of herself but of a fellow political detainee, Ahmad Reza Jalali, who faces imminent execution in Iran for a crime he is adamant he did not commit.
“I was told to go back to jail and I'm going back to jail today,” she wrote. “I don't like to say how I haven't been able to hug my children in the last three weeks due to coronavirus. But I have a duty to express my concern about the situation of Ahmad Reza Jalali and ask all those who have the facilities to support to pay attention to the situation of Ahmad Reza Jalali's case. Release Ahmad Reza Jalali today.”
Nasrin Sotoudeh was sentenced to 33 years imprisonment and 148 lashes by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran last year. Until mid-October this year she was held in Evin Prison, but was then transferred to Qarchak – a dangerously overcrowded and unsanitary facility, with a reputation for violence – after she became ill from a hunger strike protesting against her and others’ imprisonment.
Her fresh incarceration was met with bitter reactions on social media and condemnation by human rights advocates. Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of PEN America’s Free Expression at Risk program, wrote: “After contracting COVID-19 and sustaining a weeks-long hunger strike, Nasrin is now being ordered back behind bars.
“It’s a stunning abrogation of her basic rights and directly in contravention of the guidance of health professionals. Instead of giving her time to recover and releasing her permanently, Iranian authorities are sentencing Nasrin to an uncertain and potentially fatal sentence.
“It’s time to end the farce. Nasrin is a defender of women’s rights, a writer and lawyer with a forceful outlook who has committed no crime. We call on Iran’s government to permanently free Nasrin, to cease its harassment of her and her family, and to respond to Nasrin’s renewed call for the release of other political prisoners, particularly Ahmadreza Djalali, the Iranian-Swedish academic who is reportedly at imminent risk of execution.”