The European Union on Tuesday called on Iran to release a prominent human rights lawyer recently sentenced to 18 years in prison, calling the verdict an "unacceptable attack" against the legal profession.
"The High Representative is very concerned by the exceedingly harsh verdict given by an Iranian Court to Mr Abdolfattah Soltani, a prominent Iranian lawyer who bravely stood up to defend the rights of numerous human rights activists in his country," said a spokesman for EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton in a statement.
"The 18-year prison sentence and the 20-year ban from practising law imposed by the court constitute another unacceptable attack against the legal profession in Iran. The High Representative calls on Iran to drop all charges against him and to release him immediately."
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On March 6, several opposition websites reported on the sentencing of Soltani, a co-founder of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre along with Nobel peace prize winner Shirin Ebadi and others.
He was arrested in early September, spurring condemnation by Amnesty International and the European Union.
He is also known for defending the minority religious group of Bahais in Iran, who are not recognised by the authorities.
Amnesty has called for the immediate release of Soltani, who also spent several months behind bars between 2005 and 2009.