Nasrin Sotoudeh

Sakharov Prize Laureate 2012
sotoudeh Nasrin Sotoudeh is an Iranian human rights lawyer who was among the few who defended dissenters arrested in the 2009 mass protests and other high-profile human rights and political cases before her own arrest in 2010.

When she was awarded the Prize in 2012, she was serving a six-year jail sentence and on a seven-week hunger strike in solitary confinement in Iran's notorious Evin prison, protesting judicial pressure on her family.

In a very weak and frail state, she found the strength to write a memorable message to Parliament, read for her at the award ceremony by her friend and colleague Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi.

'The story of human rights, and the mechanisms for guaranteeing them, has come a long way, yet its realization still largely depends on the intentions of governments, the biggest violators of human rights'. Sotoudeh identified human rights violations as the basic cause of the wave of revolutions sweeping the Middle East. To human rights defenders and political prisoners she said 'just like you, I also know that democracy has a long and difficult road ahead'.

She was unexpectedly released in September 2013, in a move welcomed by President Schulz as 'an important positive signal by the Iranian authorities' particularly newly-elected President Rouhani.

In December 2013 she met the first European Parliament Delegation to visit Iran in six years. Sotoudeh focused on political prisoners and denounced trials held in revolutionary, rather than criminal, courts as non-transparent. She asked the Delegation to question the Iranian authorities on this issue. The Delegation was told that revolutionary courts were established to judge crimes against the state and therefore no change was possible. The meeting caused furore among Iranian hardliners who accused Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi of being seditionists.

She continues her advocacy for human rights, women's rights and basic freedoms. She is fighting debarment from practising law in 2014, a career which she fought for several years to practice, starting out with defending minors from the death penalty, a cause she continues to defend.

In July 2014, as war broke in Gaza, Sotoudeh launched the Stop Killing Your Fellow Beings social media campaign.

She is not able to visit Parliament to receive her Sakharov Prize or attend SPN events as she is still banned from leaving Iran, but Ebadi represented her at the 2013 Conference.

Sotoudeh intends to stay in Iran and fight for reform from within.