TEHRAN, Iran – The defendant met with his lawyer once for 15 minutes before he was sentenced to death and hanged.
When the lawyer complained to authorities, they ignored her. When she tried to enter the courtroom where he was being tried, they threatened her with arrest. And when she spoke out publicly at what she described as a gross miscarriage of justice, they shut off her cell phone.
“Unfortunately, despite repeated warnings, you have kept contacts with counter-revolutionary media and for two months from today your cellphone will be cut off,” read a text message she received.
Now lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh boils with rage and frustration. The case of 20-year-old Arash Rahmanipour, who was executed before dawn Jan. 28, haunts her.
“We, as defense lawyers of human rights, are under so much pressure and restrictions, and the noose around us is tightening and we are insulted and threatened so much and verbally abused,” Sotoudeh, 46, said during an emotional interview in her Tehran office. “What makes me feel helpless, desperate and bitter is that our attempt to help our clients is doomed and in vain.”
Iranian authorities executed Rahmanipour and Mohammad-Reza Ali-Zamani, 37, both alleged to be members of an outlawed monarchist group called the Kingdom Assembly, and sentenced nine others to death in late January in what many interpreted as a warning to protesters ahead of Thursday’s commemorations of the Islamic Revolution.