8 August – Abdolfattah Soltani is one of Iran’s most prominent human rights lawyers. He spent most of his legal career defending political prisoners before becoming one himself.
After representing many detainees held on politically motivated charges, this fearless defense attorney has been imprisoned since 2011, serving a 13-year prison sentence for “being awarded the  Nuremberg International Human Rights Award,” “interviewing with media about his clients’ cases,” and “co-founding the Defenders of Human Rights Center.”
Soltani was recently granted furlough from Evin Prison to mourn his daughter’s death on August 4th, 2018. His 30-year-old daughter, Homa, passed away on August 3rd from a heart attack.
Video clips were posted on social media, showing Soltani being reunited with his family at a morning ceremony for his daughter. One clip shows Soltani breaking down into tears as he embraces his wife, Masoumeh Dehghan.
In a video clip showing Soltani standing over his daughter’s grave, he says, “I pledge in the presence of all the martyrs to always serve the people and work for the greatness of the country.” He continues, “I hope to God that we will always do the things that make the people happy. I pledge to never forget the people. I pledge in the presence of your good soul to never forget your mission to bring happiness and help the people. We will strive to bring a smile onto the faces of the people. I salute you all.”
How much time Soltani will be granted for this furlough is unclear. His lawyer, Saeed Dehghan, called on President Hassan Rouhani on August 5th, to seek Soltani’s release.
Article 58 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code allows prisoners to be conditionally released after serving a third of their sentence. While Soltani, 64, has been eligible for release since 2014, the Intelligence Ministry — operating under Rouhani — has blocked his freedom despite his deteriorating health, according to his surviving daughter, Maede.
“They don’t want him to go free only because he insists on his rights and innocence,” Maede Soltani told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) in September 2017, adding, “The judiciary isn’t impartial or independent. The real decision-maker is the Intelligence Ministry.”
Narges Mohammadi and Nasrin Sotoudeh, former staffers of the now defunct CHRI, are also currently being held in Evin Prison. The center’s co-founder, Nobel Peace Laureate and attorney Shirin Ebadi, facing repeated threats that she would also be imprisoned, fled Iran in 2009.
Mahvash Sabet, a formerly imprisoned Baha’i faith leader said she would “never forget” Soltani’s brave attempts to defend her before she was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
“In one of the court sessions, after a lot of wrangling, our lawyers were given a chance to present a defense. I remember Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani, the prominent lawyer who I greatly respect, standing up and rejecting the charges on three grounds,” she said. “Despite their firm belief in Islam, he [attorney Hadi Esmailzadeh] and Mr. Soltani defended us regardless of our beliefs. What mattered to them was that their clients were human beings and citizens of this country, just like them.”