Calls for further pressure on regime to release remaining political prisoners
WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–September 18, 2013. U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), founder of the U.S. Senate Iranian Dissident Awareness Program and co-chair of the Iranian Political Prisoners Global Advocacy Project, today welcomed Iran’s release of several political prisoners, including human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, and called for further pressure on the Iranian regime to unconditionally and immediately release all remaining political prisoners, including the members of the Baha’i leadership (“the Yaran”).
“While I welcome Nasrin’s release and look forward to speaking to her soon, I recognize that today’s action stems from President Rouhani’s cynical attempt to hoodwink western audiences ahead of his visit to the United Nations,” Senator Kirk said. “As President Rouhani comes to New York, we must remain clear-eyed about Iran’s continued abuse of human rights and increase the pressure on the Iranian regime to release all remaining political prisoners, including the leaders of the Baha’i community.”
Since 2011, Nasrin Sotoudeh has been a prominent member of Senator Kirk’s Iranian Dissident Awareness Program (IDAP) — part of an international awareness campaign highlighting the victims of human rights abuses in Iran. After defending opposition activists in the wake of the fraudulent June 2009 presidential elections, Nasrin was arrested in 2010 and sentenced to a six-year prison term on charges of “propaganda against the state.” To protest her mistreatment in prison, Nasrin undertook numerous hunger strikes, including a 49-day hunger strike last fall to protest a travel ban imposed on her 13-year-old daughter. Nasrin is recognized internationally for her human rights work and is the recipient of the European Union’s 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
On July 15, Senator Kirk met with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power before her confirmation to discuss advancing human rights in Iran and ways to advocate for political prisoners including Nasrin. In the fiscal year (FY) 2014 State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Act, which was passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee on July 25, 2013, Senator Kirk offered an amendment that expresses support for political prisoners like Nasrin Sotoudeh and requires the Secretary of State to report on steps being taken to raise awareness around the world about Iranian dissidents and political prisoners.