Tehran, Iran – Prominent Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was temporarily released from prison after concerns about her deteriorating health emerged.
The 57-year-old “went on vacation with the approval of the prosecutor who runs the women’s prison,” said Mizan, the judiciary’s news website, without giving further details.
Reza Khandan, Sotoudeh’s husband, confirmed the publication in a tweet.
“Friends, Nasrin came on vacation a few minutes ago,” he said.
Friends, Nasrin said goodbye a few minutes ago
– Reza Khandan (@ RezaKhandan4) November 7, 2020
Sotoudeh was arrested two years ago for collusion, disseminating propaganda and insulting the top Iranian leader. She was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes in 2019.
Sotoudeh was hospitalized in September after her physical condition deteriorated after weeks of hunger strike. Their strike ended after 46 days at the end of September.
She had gone on hunger strike to demand the release of political prisoners and to draw attention to her conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tens of thousands of prisoners have been temporarily released from overcrowded Iranian prisons since February in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Some of them have since had to return, and some political prisoners were not involved in the initiative.
The Middle East’s worst pandemic has killed nearly 38,000 people to date, and the number of infections in Iran has risen sharply since September.
On October 20, Sotoudeh was transferred from Tehran’s Evin Prison to Qarchak, a women’s prison outside the city that has been blacklisted due to United Nations human rights sanctions.
At the time, her husband Khandan said in a tweet that she was told to prepare to be rushed to the hospital but was instead transferred to Qarchak.
Sotoudeh’s temporary release comes weeks after two senior judicial officials visited Qarchak and reportedly spent hours talking to prisoners about their conditions.
At the time, Mizan reported that they were issuing “immediate orders” to answer a series of inquiries from inmates without disclosing details.
Australian scientist Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who has been held for more than two years on a ten-year prison sentence for espionage in Iran, was also in Qarchak at the time and met with officials.
She was returned to Evin Prison days later and is staying there.
The Franco-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah, who has been detained since June 2019 for conspiracy against national security in Iran, was temporarily released from prison on October 3.
Well-known Iranian human rights activist and journalist Narges Mohammadi was also released from prison in early October after her sentence was reduced.
Sotoudeh, a European Parliament Sakharov Prize winner, is legally required to serve at least 12 years of her prison sentence before qualifying for parole.
The internationally renowned human rights lawyer, whose release has been requested by the United Nations and human rights groups outside Iran, had previously been detained.
She also spent three years behind bars after representing people arrested in 2009 during mass protests against the controversial re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
During her first years in prison, Sotoudeh protested the conditions in Evin and a ban on seeing her son and daughter by going on two hunger strikes. She was released in 2013.
A little over two weeks ago, the first court hearing was held for a case relating to Mehraveh Khandan, Sotoudeh’s 20-year-old daughter.
She was tried over a year ago for visiting her mother in Evin.
A prison worker reportedly had problems with how she wore her hijab.
In a tweet announcing Mehraveh Khandan’s court session, her father Reza Khandan called it “a continuation of security pressures on Nasrin and our family members.”