Norwegian officials are formally objecting to an Iranian court’s harsh verdict against lawyer and human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh. She’s reportedly been sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes for alleged offenses that include protests against women being forced to wear a hijab.
There’s been mixed signals over the actual length of Sotoudeh’s sentence, reports newspaper Aftenposten, with one judge saying she was “only” sentenced to two years in prison for offending Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and five years for “meetings and conspiracy against the state.” Norwegian state secretary Audun Halvorsen told Aftenposten that even a minimum sentence of seven years gives “great cause for concern.”
Halvorsen said Norway’s foreign ministry would follow up the concrete case against Sotoudeh, in close cooperation with the EU and other countries. He said Iran’s ambassador in Oslo would also be called in to account for the treatment of Sotoudeh, who has specialized in defending women’s rights in Iran.
Several Members of Parliament in Norway are also alarmed and strongly oppose her imprisonment and especially any lashes.
“It makes me feel ill and ready to fight when I read about this,” MP Anette Trettebergstuen of the Labour Party wrote in an email to Aftenposten. “Nasrin Sotoudeh is one of the bravest women the world has. With her own life and health at stake, she fights for women’s right to be free people.”
Trettebergstuen, who serves as Labour’s spokesperson on equality issues, thinks Sotoudeh’s efforts are having an effect “because it’s clearly scaring the Iranian regime so much that they want to whip her into silence.” She said the Norwegian government and Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide must do all they can to support Sotoudeh, who has been held as a political prisoner in Iran on several earlier charges.
Abid Raja, an MP for the Liberal Party that’s part of Norway’s conservative government coalition, thinks the Norwegian government must evaluate recalling its own ambassador to Iran if Iran fails to reverse the sentence against Sotoudeh.
“We have to be furious, and everyone living in freedom must demand that their governments protest loudly,” Raja told Aftenposten. He also urged evaluation of “other measures, like calling home their ambassadors if Iran doesn’t back down.” Raja is a member of the Parliament foreign and defense committee.