Prominent Iranian human rights lawyer Mostafa Nili was released from Rajaishahr prison near Tehran on Tuesday, more than five months after he was arrested during nationwide protests. The demonstrations were sparked last year after the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old ethnic Kurd who was arrested for allegedly breaking Iran’s strict dress code for women.
Nili, who was sentenced to four years in prison, has defended several human rights cases, including protesters who had demonstrated against the handling by authorities of the coronavirus pandemic. His lawyer, Zahra Minouei, confirmed his release on Twitter, stating that he was set free as part of an amnesty.
The protests following Amini’s death led to thousands of arrests and hundreds of deaths, including members of the security forces. Iran labeled the protests as foreign-instigated “riots” and executed four people because of the civil unrest.
Nili’s release is part of an apparent effort by authorities to appease critics of the government. Since early February, several dozen well-known prisoners have been released. Nili’s sister reported that he was arrested on November 8, 2022, at Tehran airport.
Iran has faced criticism from human rights organizations for its treatment of activists and dissenters. In recent years, the government has cracked down on protests and arrested journalists, lawyers, and human rights activists. Many have been subjected to torture and other forms of mistreatment while in custody.
The release of Mostafa Nili is a positive development for human rights in Iran, but many more activists and dissidents remain in prison. The Iranian government must do more to protect the rights of its citizens and respect freedom of speech and assembly.