Iran: Human rights defender Reza Khandan released, while Nasrin Sotoudeh and Farhad Meysami remain in prison after ending hunger strikes

08.01.19

Human rights defender Reza Khandan, the husband of imprisoned human-rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, was released from prison in Iran on 23 December 2018, his lawyer Mohammad Moghimi said in a post on Facebook. While welcoming the news, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) calls for the release of Sotoudeh and all other jailed human rights defenders.

Moghimi wrote, “Following a hearing to investigate the charges against Mr. Reza Khandan and Dr. Farhad Meysami, and hearing the defense, the court agreed to file a bail settlement with the request for bail to be secured, minutes ago, to my client, Reza Khandan, who was released from Evin Prison.” He did not provide details on the circumstances or conditions of his release.

Moghimi also provided the welcome news that both Dr. Meysami and Sotoudeh had ended their hunger strikes. He said, “With the smile of freedom and the satisfaction of another of the demands of my client Dr. Farhad Meysami, he also stopped his hunger strike after 145 days. Also, my friend Nasrin Sotoudeh ended her hunger strike.”

He added, “Thanks to all those who have been sympathetic to my clients during this time. Hoping for the release of all the loved ones in the prison.”

Khandan was detained on 04 September 2018 after he complained on Facebook about human rights violations in Iran, including the imprisonment of rights defenders and the prosecution of women who have campaigned against the requirement to wear the Islamic hijab. He was charged with “assembly and collusion against national security, propaganda against the system, and spreading and promoting [the wearing] of no hijab in society.” For more background, see: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1945

On 15 August 2018, Sotoudeh was sentenced to five years in prison on several charges, including for defending women who refused to wear hijab and “organising protest rallies”. See more at: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1945

On 02 January 2018, Khandan published on Facebook the following open letter from Sotoudeh which she wrote to Dr. Meysami: “First of all, congratulations to you, dear friend, on the success of insisting on the demands of humanity. I understand your feelings about the arrest of my husband, Reza Khandan. Because over the past 40 years, thousands of people have been arrested with fictitious stories and have been imprisoned for a long time, and more surprisingly, they still carry out arrests with incredible insistence on adopting fictitious stories and issuing sentences of lengthy imprisonment for absurd allegations.”

Dr. Meysami was arrested on 31 July 2018 after defending the rights of women and girls to reject the hijab and was charged with encouraging corruption and prostitution. The charge was allegedly due to the production and distribution of badges stating “No to compulsory hijab,” which could lead to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Dr. Meysami went on hunger strike to protest the arrest of Khandan. On 26 November 2018, Sotoudeh also went on hunger strike again to protest the lack of hospital treatment for Dr. Meysami due to his lengthy hunger strike.

In her recent letter to Dr. Meysami, Sotoudeh continued, “The release of my husband, which was the result of your resistance and stability, and most of all, human rights activists, … has brought joy to our family, my children and myself. Judicial authorities have said that after Reza's release, you will be released, both of you are equally innocent, and I hope to hear the news of your release soon.”

Sotoudeh ended with thanks to her supporters: “I am sincerely grateful to civil society, human rights activists around the world, and all those who have been following Farhad Meysami's grave situation, and appreciate the valuable efforts that empowered us. Moreover, we believe in the right path we have chosen.”

Since December 2017, dozens of women have been arrested for removing their hijab during regular protest campaigns under hashtags including #mystealthyfreedom, #whitewednesdays, #girlsofenghelabstreet and #mycameraismyweapon. Numerous human rights defenders and lawyers have since been arrested in connection with the protests.

GCHR urges the authorities in Iran to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release Nasrin Sotoudeh and Dr. Farhad Meysami, and drop all charges against them, as well as unconditionally overturning the prison sentences against Sotoudeh;
  2. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Dr. Farhad Meysami and Nasrin Sotoudeh while in prison, including ensuring they receive the medical attention needed due to hunger strike;
  3. Release all detained human rights defenders and provide them with a safe civic space in which to conduct their work;
  4. Stop arbitrarily arresting and intimidating human rights defenders as a result of their participation in peaceful human rights activities; and
  5. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Iran are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment.