Iran has released several political prisoners, including celebrated human rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh, days before Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is scheduled to speak before the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf hailed the move by the Iranian government:
"We hope that one day all prisoners of conscience in Iran will be released."
“We do welcome the news that some prisoners of conscience have been released from prison today. . . We hope that one day all prisoners of conscience in Iran will be released. So I think this is clearly news that we welcome.”
A winner of the 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, Ms. Sotoudeh is a lawyer whose clients have included many political dissidents, including Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, as well as vulnerable women and juvenile defendants. The mother of two young children, Ms. Sotoudeh was serving a six year sentence for supposed crimes against national security.
Other released prisoners reportedly include journalists Mahsa Amrabadi and Isa Saharkhiz, as well as former deputy commerce minister Feizollah Arabsorkhi and former deputy foreign minister Mohsen Aminzadeh, and others.
Hundreds of journalists, rights activists, and political dissidents remain in prison in Iran. During his campaign for president, Mr. Rouhani said he would promote a foreign policy of “constructive interaction with the world” and enact a “civil rights charter” at home. Human rights monitors are hoping that the September 18th release of political prisoners presages the new respect for the fundamental rights of the Iranian people that was promised.
As Secretary of State John Kerry said after Mr. Rouhani won the election: “President-elect Rouhani pledged repeatedly during his campaign to restore and expand freedoms for all Iranians. In the months ahead, he has the opportunity to keep his promises to the Iranian people.”