(NEW YORK) - Amnesty International welcomes the release of prominent Iranian human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, and at least 11 political activists.
Amnesty International adopted Sotoudeh as a prisoner of conscience and has campaigned for her release for years.
"While the releases are a positive development, they must be a first step that paves the way for the release of all prisoners of conscience held solely because they peacefully exercised their rights," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa deputy director at Amnesty International.
Sotoudeh was sentenced in September 2010 to six years in prison on charges of "spreading propaganda against the system" and "acting against national security," including membership in the Centre for Human Rights Defenders.
"Amnesty activists around the world, including thousands in the U.S., campaigned tirelessly on behalf of Sotoudeh for several years, in the hope that this happy day would finally come," said Elise Auerbach, Iran country specialist for Amnesty in the United States. "All of us at Amnesty are overjoyed that she is now back home, reunited with her husband and two children. This is a victory for human rights that we would likely not be celebrating but for the dedication and commitment of activists from Amnesty and our partner organizations."
Sotoudeh thanked all Amnesty International members who have taken action for her release. "I have been aware of all your efforts on my behalf and I want thank-you and all your colleagues for your work," she said.
"To be more than a mere symbolic measure, the Iranian authorities should now overturn her prison sentence, revoke the travel ban and the ban against her practising law. They must also end their routine harassment and imprisonment of anyone working to defend human rights," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui of Amnesty.
Sotoudeh was prevented from having regular visits with her husband, Reza Khandan, and two young children. The authorities also placed an illegal travel ban on her 13-year-old daughter in 2012. Sotoudeh staged a 49-day hunger strike in prison, which she ended when the authorities lifted the travel ban against her daughter.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.