Iranian lawyer and prominent human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh [JURIST news archive] on Tuesday ended a 49-day hunger strike in protest of her prison conditions and a travel ban imposed on her family. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had Navi Pillay [official website] expressed concern [press release] for Sotoudeh's deteriorating health and urged the Iranian government to lift the travel ban, saying the ban was not justified by international law. After judicial authorities agreed to lift the travel ban [NYT report] on Sotoudeh's daughter, Sotoudeh ended her strike. Sotoudeh was sentenced [AFP report] in January 2011 to 11 years in prison after being found guilty of "acting against national security" and "making propaganda against the system" for which she will serve five and one years, respectively. The remaining five years of her sentence result from allegations that she was a member of the Human Rights Defenders Center [advocacy website], an organization originally founded by Shirin Ebadi [JURIST news archive] and four other Iranian lawyers, many of whom have also been detained or otherwise punished for their work. In addition to her prison term, Sotoudeh's punishment also requires that she refrain from leaving the country or practicing law for the next 20 years. Sotoudeh has spent a large part of her detention in solitary confinement [JURIST report].
Sotoudeh is most widely known for representing political activists following the controversial 2009 presidential election [JURIST news archive] and has worked on several high-profile cases. She was the lawyer for Arash Rahmanipour, who was arrested for his role in the post-election protests on charges of mohareb, or being an enemy of God. Rahmanipour was executed [JURIST report] in January 2010. Sotoudeh also represented Isa Saharkhiz [Iran Press profile], a well-known press activist who was sentenced [JURIST report] to four years in prison in 2006 for publishing articles against the constitution and offending the state media. Iran continues to be scrutinized internationally for human rights violations. In March 2010, Pillay criticized the state of human rights in Iran while presenting her annual report. Pillay also condemned [JURIST report] Iran for the "arbitrary arrest" of, and "harsh sentences, including capital punishment" given to, individuals involved in protests following the presidential elections.