On November 26, a number of Dutch lawyers gathered in front of the Iranian Embassy in The Hague to express their support for Nasrin Sotoudeh and to protest against her treatment as a prisoner in Iran.
Sotoudeh, an Iranian lawyer, has been on a hunger strike since October 17, saying she is being denied the rights due to every prisoner as stipulated in the regulations of the Bureau of Prisons.
Lawyers for Lawyers, established in 1984 to defend the freedom and independence of lawyers around the world, has prepared a petition signed by a number of its members expressing concern for Sotoudeh’s situation. The petition was to be handed to the Iranian ambassador to the Netherlands on Monday November 26.
Here is an interview concerning this issue with Phon van den Biesen, the president of Lawyers for Lawyers:
Could you explain a bit about this protest gathering and movement?
Phon van den Biesen: We took our protest to the Iranian embassy in The Hague because we are very concerned about the situation of our colleague, Nasrin Sotoudeh.
We believe her treatment in prisoner is extremely unjust and unfair. We believe that a lawyer and a human rights activist should not be in prison. Yet not only is she in jail, she is not being given the right to have proper visits with her children or her spouse. Therefore, by putting restrictions on her visitation rights and putting pressure on her family, they are actually subjecting her to further punishment.
We tried to have a dialogue about this with the Iranian ambassador to the Netherlands but we did not succeed. They told us that he is very busy. So we decided to assemble a group of lawyers from Lawyers for Lawyers in front of the Iranian embassy to show that we object to Nasrin Sotoudeh’s treatment in prison.
You indicated that you planned to deliver the petition to the Iranian ambassador to the Netherlands. Did you succeed in doing so?
No. The embassy told us that they never accept or receive petitions from anyone. They told us that the petition can be mailed to them. It was very disappointing. We thought at least someone would come out of the embassy and take the petition. We thought they would listen to us and have some sort of conversation, but it did not happen. So we just dropped the petition envelope in the mail.
Do you think that such actions and petitions could make any difference to how Nasrin Sotoudeh is treated or to other individuals in her situation?
If we are the only organization taking such an action, we cannot be very effective. But as you already know, there are many individuals and organizations that are trying to express their disapproval in a variety of ways. We encourage all of our peers from all over Europe to take similar action and try to make Iranian officials hear their voice and see their protest against the treatment of Nasrin Sotoudeh.
We believe the more plentiful and varied the voices that reach Tehran, the better the chance that her situation will improve.
Are you in touch with Reza Khandan, Nasrin Sotoudeh’s husband? Is he aware of your protest action?
Let us say that we make every effort to keep her spouse informed.
Are you planning any other form of protest in the Netherlands?
Right now we are planning to inform our colleagues about the protest action we’ve already undertaken and, as I said before, we are also focusing on getting our peers in other European countries to take similar actions. This is our top priority.
[translated from Persian]