MOSCOW, October 28 (RIA Novosti) — Iranian authorities must stop targeting human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and quit interfering in the affairs of the country's bar association, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Tuesday.
"The Iranian government should stop detaining and harassing prominent rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, and allow her the right to peaceful dissent and assembly. Officials should also end their interference in the internal affairs of Iran's bar association; the government and the association should ensure that no lawyer is disciplined for defending clients, and that disciplinary hearings are fair and independent," the organization said in a statement published on its website.
According to Eric Goldstein, HRW deputy Middle East director, the Iranian government's "well-documented harassment of Nasrin Sotoudeh, including her recent detention and previous unlawful conviction and imprisonment, suggests they are heavily invested in preventing her from doing her job as a lawyer."
Sotoudeh was arrested on October 25 as she was participating in a demonstration against a recent string of acid attacks in the city of Esfahan in front of the Interior Ministry.
The Iranian Bar Association suspended Sotoudeh's law license for three years on October 18 on the grounds of a previous conviction. The license was revoked under pressure from security, intelligence, and judiciary officials, Sotoudeh told HRW.
According to the organization, "judiciary officials have curtailed the independence of the Iranian Bar Association by various means in recent years, such as barring lawyers from seeking senior positions based on their imputed political opinions and peaceful human rights activities."
In 2010, Sotoudeh was charged with conspiring to harm state security and spreading propaganda. She was sentenced to six years in prison in September 2011 and banned from practicing law for 10 years, but was released with no explanation in September 2013.