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France Urges Iran to Free Human Rights Lawyer


FILE -- French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian arrives to meet Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, before their talks in Tunis, Oct. 22, 2018.

France on Thursday called for Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh to be released and warned Tehran that its adherence to a nuclear accord does not give it a blank cheque on human rights.

"We will do all we can to secure the release of Mrs. Sotoudeh," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told the upper chamber Senate.

"She was condemned under astonishing conditions," for "defending the rights of women, in particular those who contest the obligation to wear the Islamic veil," he added.

Sotoudeh's husband, Reza Khandan, told AFP on Sunday that his wife had been sentenced to a total of 33 years in prison over a case with seven charges, but she is to only serve the longest sentence, 12 years imposed on Sunday for "encouraging corruption and debauchery".

She has also been convicted of espionage.

Sotoudeh has also been sentenced to a total of 148 lashes for appearing in court without the hijab Islamic head covering and for another offense.

According to Khandan, Sotoudeh has refrained from choosing a lawyer as attorneys on her previous cases have faced prosecution for representing her.

"We have been making considerable efforts in recent months to preserve the (Iranian) nuclear accord, despite America's withdrawal," said Le Drian.

"We are doing so because we respect our signature, but Iran must also respect its obligations in particular those international agreements relating to civil and political rights," he added.

Last month the UN atomic watchdog said that Iran has been adhering to its deal with world powers on limiting its nuclear program, as diplomatic wrangling continues over the future of the accord.

The latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran was still complying with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with global powers under which Tehran drastically scaled back its nuclear programin return for sanctions relief.

Last week, European nations rejected a call from US Vice President Mike Pence to follow the US lead in withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear deal.

Le Drian said Thursday: "Our wish to preserve the Vienna accord does not grant carte-blanche to Iran and certainly not in the matter of human rights."

Before her arrest, Sotoudeh, 55, had taken on the cases of several women arrested for appearing in public without headscarves in protest at the mandatory dress code in force in Iran.

Sotoudeh won the European Parliament's prestigious Sakharov Prize in 2012 for her work on high-profile cases, including those of convicts on death row for offenses committed as minors.

She spent three years in prison after representing dissidents arrested during mass protests in 2009 against the disputed re-election of ultra-conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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