Jailed Iranian Sakharov Prize Nominee on Hunger Strike

Female Iranian human rights lawyer, Nasrin Soutodeh
Female Iranian human rights lawyer, Nasrin Soutodeh

Female Iranian human rights lawyer, Nasrin Soutodeh

Stop Fundamentalism – Iranian woman lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh who has recently been named by the European Parliament as one of the candidates nominated to receive Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought award, is currently on a hunger strike in Iran’s notorious Evin prison where she is serving an eleven-year jail sentence for “conspiring against national security and running propaganda against Islamic Republic.” 

Mrs. Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, told reporters that she chose to start a hunger strike to protest unbearable and harsh prison conditions.

Sotoudeh is an outspoken Iranian lawyer who was arrested for protesting lack of due process of law in Iranian courts.  She was the defending lawyer for the 19-year-old Arash Rahmanipour who was executed for participating in the 2009 after elections uprising in Iran.  Rahmanipour was a juvenile at the time of his arrest.

Sotoudeh, following Rahmanipour’s execution and being frustrated about the lack of due process of law for her clients told the media that “when she cannot do anything to save their clients, she would rather be executed along with them.”

Sotoudeh’s husband told reporters that he tried very hard to change her mind about the hunger strike but she responded, “When I can’t do anything else, the last and only option to protest is hunger strike.”

Sotoudeh was nominated for Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought along with Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi who is also serving time in prison on political charges.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is given yearly by the European Parliament to honor exceptional persons who struggle against intolerance, fanaticism and oppression, defending human rights and freedom of expression.

The list of nominees for this year’s award also includes the Russian feminist punk-rock music group “Pussy Riot.”  The final winner will be decided about on October 26 by the political group leaders in the European Parliament.  The prize will be awarded on December 12 during a ceremony at the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg.

The winner of the award is always invited to attend the presentation ceremony to receive the prize but with both Iranian candidates being in jail, the reaction of Iranian clerics remains unknown.