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Lawyer who defended headscarf protesters held

Tehran: Iranian authorities on Wednesday detained a prominent rights lawyer who had recently defended women protesting the obligatory Islamic headscarf.

Nasrin Sotoudeh was taken from her home, according to her husband, Reza Khandan, who said she managed to call him after she was detained. He said she was told she would be serving a five-year sentence at the Evin prison in Tehran after being convicted in absentia. “I have no idea what the sentence was related to,” he said.

There was no immediate comment from authorities.

Khandan said their 18-year-old daughter was at home at the time of the arrest.

“My daughter is preparing for university entrance exams that will be held in two weeks,” he said. “I don’t know how she will manage it in such conditions.”

Amnesty International condemned the detention, calling it an “outrageous attack on a brave and prolific human rights defender,” The group said she should be released “immediately and unconditionally.”

Sotoudeh is an outspoken critic of the country’s judiciary, which is dominated by hard-liners. She had recently objected to its decision to limit the number of lawyers allowed to defend clients in security-related cases, calling the move a “farewell” to the right of defense.

The judiciary had released a list of just 20 lawyers, out of 60,000 licensed attorneys, who would be allowed to defend such cases. After widespread objections, the judiciary said it would expand the list.

The mother of two also worked as a lawyer for women detained for refusing to cover their hair in public.

Sotoudeh, who has also represented prominent opposition activists, had previously served a three-year prison term from 2010 to 2013 after being convicted of security-related charges.

She was awarded the prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Union in 2012.

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