November 1, 2012 - 22:42 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - A group of independent UN experts on Thursday, Nov 1, urged Iran to release jailed rights activists including the winners of this year's Sakharov rights prize, lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and film-maker Jafar Panahi, according to Middle East Online.
"I am particularly concerned about the situation of Ms. Sotoudeh, whose state of health is reportedly deteriorating due to the hunger strike she commenced on 17 October to denounce her prison conditions and the restrictions imposed on members of her family," UN special rapporteur for human rights in Iran Ahmed Shaheed said in a statement.
Sotoudeh and Panahi were awarded the European Parliament's Sakharov prize last week. Sotoudeh, a 47-year-old mother of two, is a leading human rights campaigner known for representing opposition activists thrown behind bars after Iran's disputed June 2009 presidential elections, as well as women and juveniles facing the death penalty.
After being sentenced to 11 years in January 2011 and banned from practicing law for 20 years for conspiring against state security, she recently went on hunger strike to protest harassment against her family.
Panahi was arrested for a documentary he tried to make on the unrest following the 2009 election and after being placed under house arrest. He was later sentenced to six years in jail and banned from making more films for 20 years.
Margaret Sekaggya, the UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders, also voiced concern about their detention.
"The imprisonment of Ms. Sotoudeh and Mr. Panahi appears to be directly linked to their work in the defence of human rights, in clear violation of international human rights standards," she said in the statement.
"The Iranian Government must make every effort to guarantee the fundamental freedoms of those working to ensure human rights are respected," she added.
Gabriela Knaul, the special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, expressed concern about the persecution of human rights lawyers in Iran, which was "having grave implications for the adequate functioning and independence of the justice system."
At least 32 lawyers and a number of human rights activists are currently in prison in Iran.