Iranian lawyers protest conviction of human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh

In a letter open to the people a group of 16 jurists speaks of a sentence that violates the commitments enshrined in the Constitution in terms of human rights and due process. The sentence is "a source of shame" and shows "lack of tolerance" in dealing with the voices that are "critical" of the system. Sign of "weakness" of the judiciary.

Tehran (AsiaNews) - A group of Iranian lawyers has joined the criticism of the international community for the sentence of 38 years in prison and 148 lashes imposed in recent days on Nasrin Sotoudeh, leader of the fight against the mandatory veil. 

In an open letter to the Iranian people, and sent by one of the authors to VOA Persia for publication, the group of 16 jurists emphasizes that the sentence violates the commitments enshrined in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic on the subject of human rights and due process.

In the letter, posted online by the Iranian Human Rights Activist News Agency, the signatories claim that the sentence is "a source of shame" and "shows a lack of tolerance in dealing with" lawyers "critical of the system". Furthermore, it is "a sign of weakness in the judiciary".

"We praise Sotoudeh's integrity, passion and independence in fighting for justice and human rights, and call for her unjust sentence to be overturned," added the lawyers.

On March 11, judge Mohammad Moghiseh spoke of a sentence of seven years in prison: five years for "crimes against national security" and two additional years for "insults" to the supreme leader, the great ayatollah Ali Khamenei. However, there are conflicting versions of the verdict with the family that speaks of 38 years and almost 150 lashes.

At the time of the arrest, last year, the Iranian authorities had informed the leader of the fight against the mandatory veil  that she had received a sentence in absentia of five years in prison for espionage.

Nasrin Sotoudeh is one of seven lawyers and human rights activists arrested in Iran last year. Before her detention, last June she defended a group of women imprisoned for appearing in public without the mandatory veil, a legacy norm of the 1979 Islamic revolution and punishable by prison under the penal code. Between 2010 and 2013 she was arrested and imprisoned for her political activity (propaganda against the state and attack on national security).

The condemnation of the lawyer and activist has raised an indignant response from most of the international community, including human rights NGOs and various Western chancelleries. A movement of general indignation against which, so far, the leadership of Tehran has opposed an obstinate silence.