Interview with Nasrin Sotoudeh’s Husband: She’s still on hunger strike, her transfer to solitary confinement is illegal

Nasrin Sotoudeh embracing her husband Reza Khandan on May 29, 2011. Sotoudeh was brought in handcuffs from Evin prison to the Iran Bar Association to attend a hearing.

Interview by Jaras
Translation by Persian Banoo Original translation has been modified by the Free Nasrin blog.  

Imprisoned rights attorney, Nasrin Sotoudeh was granted a short visit with her children on Monday. However, her husband, Reza Khandan was not permitted to accompany them.

In an interview with the Jaras new site, Khandan voiced his concerns regarding Sotoudeh’s imprisonment in solitary confinement while still on hunger strike. Sotoudeh launched her hunger strike on October 17, 2012.

Below is the translation of the interview conducted on November 11, 2012: 

Jaras: Mr. Khandan, did you visit Ms. Sotoudeh today?

Reza Khandan: “This morning we finally received a letter from the Prosecutor’s office stating that the children have been granted a face-to-face meeting with their mother. But, after waiting a few hours (in Evin Prison’s waiting room), the administrative office closed for the day. We left without the children seeing their mother.”

Jaras: Despite an approval letter from the Prosecutor? Why do you think they did that?

Reza Khandan: “I really don’t know. They never provide us with any explanation. Our experience shows that if they want something to happen they could in a few minutes. But, if they don’t intend for it to happen or they just want to harass or make things difficult for us, they won’t. Just like today, despite orders from the Prosecutor, the children were not able to see their mother.”

Jaras: When was the last time you were able to visit your wife?

Reza Khandan: “Of course, my intention last week Monday was not just to visit her. I had asked the officials to allow me to see her so I could perhaps convince her to halt her hunger strike. I have no new information since that date. I only know that prison officials went to the general ward (Ward 350), collected a book, her prescription glasses, and a heating pad, then gave them to her. This is a bad indication for us because it means that her current cell lacks the minimum requirements and is cold. Her hunger strike has probably made her blood pressure drop, and she suffers from physical weakness and chills; which would explain the heating pad.”

Jaras: What was her physical condition?

Reza Khandan:“You can’t even imagine how weak she has become. She was weak prior to launching the hunger strike, and now her condition is even worse. Her condition is extremely worrisome. The fact that they didn’t bring her for a visit today shows that she is probably not in good condition. She was probably in the clinic or her condition was so dire that the officials didn’t want the visit to take place.

In any case, until we actually see her we won’t know her condition. I sincerely hope that the officials promptly return her to the General Ward and/or grant us a visit.”

Jaras: How long has it been since your wife was transferred to solitary confinement in ward 209? 

Reza Khandan: “Since last week Sunday when they had illegally transferred my wife to ward 209 (under the control of the Ministry of Intelligence). This section is for newly arrested people who are under interrogation and investigation. My wife is serving her sentence. Her transfer to this section is illegal and so is denying her visitation rights. Also, the recently issued punishment order had only indicated transfer solitary confinement, not mentioning ward 209 or a ban on visits.”

Jaras: Do you know whether she is aware of the messages from various political and civil activists urging her to halt her hunger strike? 

Reza Khandan: “No, not at all. Just think, she is confined within four walls, has absolutely no contact with the outside world, and does not have any news from anywhere.”

Jaras: Do you think the officials have told her that the other female political prisoners have halted their hunger strike?

Reza Khandan: “Certainly she does not know. Even if the officials had told her about them ending their hunger strike, she does not trust them and will not believe them. She will not believe the news until she hears it from her own family. Although, my wife’s hunger strike was unrelated to the hunger strikes of the other female political prisoners. 

Jaras: If they allow you to visit her and tell her that the other women political prisoners have halted their hunger strike, and tell her of all the others urging her to halt her strike, do you think she will end hers?

Reza Khandan: I do hope they grant us a visit so I can inform her of all of this and try to convince her to halt her hunger strike. Of course, my wife wants these cases to be closed. She is especially upset about the case of our daughter. Unfortunately, our last meeting took place in a more crowded atmosphere and I was unable to speak with her, but she was calmer than the previous visits. For this reason, I requested that they grant her a visit with myself, together with the children, so I could try to convince her to halt her hunger strike. Unfortunately, they did not permit the visit.”

Jaras: Would you like to say anything else?

Reza Khandan: When a prisoner is on hunger strike in the general ward and encounters health problems their cellmates can inform the authorities. Then, if necessary, the prisoner would be taken to the medical clinic. Unfortunately, Nasrin is in solitary confinement, and she has only been taken to the clinic on a few occasions. If Nasrin was in the general ward with the other female political prisoners, they could have tried to convince her to break her hunger strike, or even deliver her the messages from others urging her to end her hunger strike.

In her current situation something awful could happen to her at any moment. For this reason, we urge the authorities to take action and transfer her to the general ward in Evin prison before it is too late.”

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