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Published: Tuesday April 1, 2014 MYT 6:25:02 PM
Updated: Tuesday April 1, 2014 MYT 6:26:35 PM

Iranian rights lawyer summoned by Intelligence Ministry - husband

DUBAI (Reuters) - Human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh has been summoned by Iran's Intelligence Ministry for questioning, her husband's Facebook page said, days after a video of her voicing support for what she called prisoners of conscience was posted online.

Reza Khandan, Sotoudeh's husband, said his wife had ignored the summons, made in a telephone call on Sunday, because she considered it "illegal".

Sotoudeh was freed from several years in prison in September shortly before President Hassan Rouhani's visited the United Nations, in what was seen at the time as a sign that his election would usher in a new era of political freedom.

In March, however, the United Nations said his administration had only taken small steps to improve human rights. The U.N special rapporteur for human rights said almost 900 political prisoners were being held.

In a Facebook posting on Monday, Khandan wrote that the Intelligence Ministry had called Sotoudeh while they were on a family trip in the province of Khuzestan.

"Since the phone call was illegal, they ignored the summons and went horseback riding instead," Khandan said, referring to Sotoudeh and their host, who he did not identify.

Khandan did not cite the reason for the summons.

The call was made two days after a video was released on YouTube showing Sotoudeh speaking in support of reformist leaders Mehdi Karoubi and Mirhossein Mousavi, who have been under house arrest since 2011.

Speaking to an unidentified gathering, she said: "We appear to be free, but our hearts are always caught between two groups: those who are imprisoned in their own homes, Mrs. Rahnavard (Mousavi's wife), Mr. Mousavi, and Mr. Karoubi, who are prisoners of conscience, and prisoners of conscience who are in the prisons of other Iranian cities."

Mousavi and Karoubi both lost a 2009 presidential election their supporters said was rigged. The re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spawned months of unrest by backers of the two reformists. Security forces crushed the protests.

Mousavi and Karoubi have been held since 2011 when the two leaders called their supporters onto the streets for a rally in support of uprisings in the Arab world.

Sotoudeh was arrested in 2010 and sentenced to six years in prison on suspicion of spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm state security, charges believed to be linked to her defence of high-profile journalists and activists, including Iranian Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi.

(Reporting by Michelle Moghtader; Editing by William Maclean and Alison Williams)

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