Iranian FM slams Ashton's claims
Azerbaijan, Baku, Sept. 22 /Trend/
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast dismissed EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton's claims that Iran has arrested Nasrin Sotudeh and Abdulfattah Soltani, IRNA reported.
In the Islamic Republic of Iran all citizens are accountable before law and enjoy equal rights, Mehmanparast said in an interview with reporters.
He then criticized the European Union's double standards on human rights and on regional developments, saying the Union has instrumental use of human rights.
"Human rights conditions should improve in the EU members, especially the UK, instead of dealing with miscellaneous issues," Mehmanparast added.
Last week, Ashton voiced her concerns over the human right situation in Iran, including arrests of human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and her own defender Abdolfattah Soltani.
She underscored that these arrests illustrate the erosion of political and civil freedoms in Iran and is indicative of the increasingly difficult conditions for human rights activists in Iran.
The ongoing persecution of human rights lawyers and activists in Iran is in breach of the
international obligations that Iran has itself signed up to, Ashton added.
The 45-year-old Sotoudeh, who has represented several political activists and protesters arrested in recent years, has been kept in Tehran's Evin prison since September, 2010. She was originally sentenced in January to 11 years in prison and banned for 20 years from working as a lawyer or travelling abroad. Sotoudeh was arrested on charges of "acting against the national security", "propaganda against the regime" and "membership of Human Rights Defenders Centre" - a rights organisation presided over by the Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi.
On September, 14, an appeals court in Iran has reduced Sotoudeh's jail sentence to six years.
Sotoudeh's lawer Soltani, a co-founder of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders along with Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi and others, was arrested on Sept. 10 at a prosecutor's office in Tehran.