Amnesty International designated him a prisoner of conscience and called him "one of the bravest human rights defenders in Iran".
Lawyer, Abdolfattah Soltani jailed for co-founding the Human Rights Defenders Centre (DHRC), spreading anti-government propaganda and endangering national security has been awarded the "International Bar Association’s 2012 human rights award".
The announcement was made in Dublin, Ireland at the close of the annual International Bar Association (IBA) Conference. Soltani’s daughter Maede Soltani and Iranian lawyer Mahnaz Parakand accepted the award on his behalf.
Parakand delivered Soltani’s acceptance speech saying, ‘Colleagues’ that Iran has ‘a collection of bad laws; but I must say that the fundamental demand and wish of many civil and political activists in Iran, is the correct implementation of even these bad laws! But the ugly truth is that the political establishment in Iran, in many cases by using a few non-independent judges has turned the whole judicial system into a tool for implementing their own wishes. They are using these courts as a heavy hammer to suppress the legitimate and legal demand of the population.’
On an up note Soltani concluded, ‘I hope that access to a just judicial process and civil rights, a guarantor of the establishment and expansion of democracy, will advance day by day’.
Soltani’s daughter also addressed IBA attendees saying, Iranian authorities had attempted to depict her father as unfit “to join the board of the Iranian Bar Council.” She went on to say how over years there had been a variety of accusations leveled against her father and all designed to intimidate him and hinder his work.
During his high profile career, Abdolfattah Soltani represented the family of slain Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who was allegedly tortured and murdered in Evin Prison back in July 2003. Solatni was later changed with espionage after questioning the fairness of the trial brought against Kazemi’s family.
Soltani also represented Akbar Ghanji, a human rights activist who exposed and implicated several government officials in the murders of intellectuals and journalists during the 1990s.
While many Iranian lawyers shrunk at taking on risky cases, Soltani continued defending protesters, teachers, political activists, students and fellow human rights lawyers.
In 2009 Soltani was arrested again and taken to Evin Prison where he was held for 72-days. During that time, the human rights attorney says he was accused by Judge Majid Matin Rasekh of questioning the presidential election results. Soltani’s daughter also claimed her father was told that if he disassociated himself from the Human Rights Defenders Centre they’d let him go.
His final arrest happened in September 2011 while preparing to defend a group of Baha’i leaders. The Tehran revolutionary court initially sentenced the 58-year old to 18-years in prison but later reduced the sentence on appeal.
Soltani’s daughter says her father was promised a further reduction of his sentence if he apologized and denounced Iranian Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi, business partner and co-founder of the Human Rights Defenders Centre.
Exhausted and unwell from incarceration, Soltani soldiers on serving out his 13-year sentence in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison. As a further punishment, the human right lawyer has been banned from practicing law for an additional 20-years. He joins a staggering list of Iranian human rights defenders behind bars.
This is Soltani's second human rights award. Maede Soltani says he father was reprimanded for accepting the “illegal” 2009 Nuremberg International Human Rights Award.
Akira Kawamura, IBA President said, ‘Mr Soltani reminds us all that for many lawyers across the world, performing their professional and legitimate duties is both challenging and dangerous. As 5,000 lawyers gather in Dublin to celebrate the achievements and progression of the legal profession, we recognize and thank Mr Soltani for his noble and courageous work.’