TORONTO — Margaret Atwood is calling on Iranian authorities to release imprisoned human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.
The literary giant is making the plea in advance of PEN Canada’s annual gala this week, when she will award Sotoudeh with the One Humanity award for defending women’s and children’s rights.
The prize acknowledges writers whose work “transcends the boundaries of national divides and inspires connections across cultures.”
PEN Canada also awarded the prize to Sotoudeh in 2011. She is the only person to receive the award more than once. Iranian-Canadian human rights activist Nazanin Afshin-Jam MacKay will accept the honour on her behalf at a gala Thursday in Toronto.
Sotoudeh was arrested in June 2018 for spreading propaganda and “encouraging corruption and prostitution.” She had represented women prosecuted for removing their mandatory headscarf. Last month, she was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes for national security offences.
Afshin-Jam MacKay describes Sotoudeh as “an Iranian Mandela” and Atwood is urging international support for the renowned activist.
“Nasrin Sotoudeh has tirelessly defended women and children from exactly the sort of arbitrary judicial rulings that have now been used to silence her,” Atwood said Monday in a release.
“Let us call on the Iranian authorities to respect fundamental justice and grant Nasrin Sotoudeh an immediate and unconditional release.”
Sotoudeh was also arrested and jailed for six years in 2010, after defending activists detained during political protests.
She has also been awarded the European Parliament’s 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and the 2018 Ludovic Trarieux Human Rights Prize.
PEN Canada is the Canadian centre of PEN International, an international community of writers that speaks for colleagues silenced in their own countries.
The Canadian Press