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Leading Iranian Lawyer Arrested as Hard-Liners Flex New Strength

TEHRAN — A leading human rights lawyer in Iran, Nasrin Sotoudeh, was arrested on Wednesday by security forces, taken from her home in Tehran to the notorious Evin Prison, her husband said.

Mrs. Sotoudeh’s persistent activism has landed her in prison numerous times, and has made her an internationally known symbol of independence in the face of Iran’s restrictive Islamist rule. Most recently, she has been involved in defending women who had been arrested for having taken off their compulsory Islamic head scarves during public protests.

The arrest comes as Iran faces increasing economic pressures stemming from President Trump’s decision in May to withdraw the United States from the 2015 agreement that limited Iran’s nuclear program. He reimposed broad sanctions against Iran, putting pressure on European businesses not to do business there.

Iranian hard-liners have been empowered since; The judiciary, which is dominated by hard-liners, decided last week that it would allow only a pool of 20 preselected lawyers to represent those implicated in political cases. Mrs. Sotoudeh, 55, was not one of them.

On Wednesday morning, Mrs. Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, an information technology specialist, wrote on his Facebook page that she had been arrested and taken to Evin Prison.

His post, written in Persian, quoted something his wife had said: “Once in the interrogation room I told the interrogators that: ‘Of all the things that the government should do for its country, you only know one, and that’s to capture people.’ ”

He confirmed the news in a telephone interview, adding that he did not know why she had been taken.

Mrs. Sotoudeh received the European Union’s most prestigious human rights award, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, in 2012. Her arrest is likely to to be seen as a provocation in Europe, where some countries have been trying to salvage the nuclear agreement and maintain business ties with Iran.


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