Iranian govt. continuing its crackdown on lawyers who defend opposition voices

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Tehran, Nov 17 (ANI): In what appears to be yet another example of Iran's crackdown on lawyers who defend influential opposition politicians, activists and journalists, a prominent Iranian human rights lawyer was put on trial on Monday for allegedly 'endangering national security'.

Forty-seven-year-old Nasrin Sotoudeh was arrested in September and accused of endangering national security. The start of her court case follows the Saturday arrest of five more lawyers in what lawyers are describing as a crackdown on those defending opponents of Iran's leaders, the Washington Post reports.

Sotoudeh's court case, which is expected to take several weeks, was reportedly held behind closed doors. Lawyers and family members were told not to discuss its details with the foreign media.

In recent months, at least 10 lawyers have been sentenced to prison terms or are awaiting trail. Several others have fled the country. On October 30, prominent lawyer Mohammad Seifzadeh was sentenced to nine years in prison and to a 10-year ban on practicing law after his release. He was found guilty of "acting against national security" and "establishing the Human Rights Defenders Center."

That organization, which is now disbanded, was led by 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, who left the Islamic republic in 2009 after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed election victory led to mass protests and a harsh crackdown on dissidents.

Iranian authorities are now very sensitive about well-connected individuals and small organizations, which in their view could potentially reenergize protests, the paper said.

Sotoudeh, who also was connected to Ebadi's Human Rights Defenders Center, had been defending several political activists, including Arash Rahmanipour, who was executed in January after a special court found him guilty of organizing anti-government riots. Sotoudeh always has insisted that her client was innocent.

According to some lawyers, her trial, the recent arrests and prison sentences for lawyers are a sign that the government is trying to frighten such lawyers, who in the past had also raised their voices in favour of human and women's rights.

The paper quoted Farideh Gheyrat, a well-known lawyer close to Sotoudeh, as saying that: "They are damaging independence of lawyers and creating obstacles for defending the accused. This goes against all laws that protect us from such prosecutions."

The crackdown comes as Iran protested against a possible resolution against the Islamic republic condemning its human-rights record. (ANI)

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