France condemns 13-year jail term for Iranian rights lawyer
PARIS - Agence France-Presse
France on Thursday condemned the 13-year jail sentence an Iranian appeal court gave to prominent human rights lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani for allegedly spreading anti-regime propaganda.
A foreign ministry spokesman said the Iranian legal system's "relentless" pursuit of "human rights defenders, in particular those from the Defenders of Human Rights Centre... is particularly worrying." Soltani's sentence was reported by foreign-based Iranian opposition websites which cited his family as the source of the information.
Soltani -- who is also known for defending the minority religious group of Bahais in Iran, who are not recognised by the authorities -- was in March originally sentenced to 18 years in jail on the charges.
He is a co-founder of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre along with Nobel peace winner Shirin Ebadi and others, and was arrested last September, spurring condemnation by Amnesty International and the European Union.
He had previously spent several months behind bars between 2005 and 2009.
According to the rights watchdog Amnesty, a revolutionary court in Tehran accused Soltani of "spreading propaganda against the system" and of "setting up an illegal opposition group." He was also accused of "gathering and colluding with intent to harm national security," according to Amnesty.
It said Soltani was also accused of accepting an illegal prize -- a reference to a prestigious human rights award he was awarded in 2009 in Germany.
A dozen lawyers defending human rights cases and opposition members are currently imprisoned in Iran, according to the rights group, which describes them as prisoners of conscience.