Iran MPs to look into case of hunger-striking lawyer-report

DUBAI Mon Dec 3, 2012 6:12am EST

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DUBAI Dec 3 (Reuters) - Iranian legislators are to visit Tehran's Evin prison and look into the case of an imprisoned lawyer on hunger strike there amid concerns over her deteriorating condition, Iranian media reported on Sunday.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, a lawyer and human rights activist, is serving a six-year jail sentence after being arrested in September 2010 on suspicion of spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security.

Sotoudeh began a hunger strike on Oct. 17, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI), in protest against a travel ban placed on her young daughter and authorities' limits on visits with her family.

The parliamentary committee has decided to visit Evin, where Sotoudeh is being held, to determine if conditions there conform to the law, legislator Mohammad Hassan Asfari told the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) on Sunday.

"If the stories regarding Ms. Sotoudeh are true, we will request an explanation from (the justice minister)," Asfari was quoted as saying by ILNA.

The committee would intervene in the case if Sotoudeh's claims were genuine but would do nothing if her actions were to "create a controversy", Asfari added.

Reza Khandan, Sotoudeh's husband, told Reuters in an email on Monday that he welcomed the parliament's visit to Evin.

"In this situation of silence and ignorance and indifference on the part of those involved, this is good news," he said. "My wife has a clear condition for stopping her hunger strike, and that is the suspension of the judiciary's case against our daughter ... this is a legal request."

Khandan said he had visited Sotoudeh on Sunday and was seriously concerned about her health. Fellow prisoners have told him her body will no longer even accept fluids, Khandan said.

"Most likely in the next few days they will have to take her to the hospital," Khandan said.

On hunger strike for nearly 50 days, Sotoudeh has had severe weight loss and has had to be taken to the prison infirmary several times, according to ICHRI.

Sotoudeh and Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi were awarded the European Union's Sakharov prize for human rights and freedom of thought last month.

She has defended journalists and rights activists, including Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi and Dutch national Zahra Bahrami, who was hanged in January 2011 on drug trafficking charges.

On Friday the United States demanded that Iran free Sotoudeh, and sharply criticised Iranian authorities for their treatment of her.

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