TEHRAN - Prominent Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and several political prisoners were freed on Wednesday, a week before President Hassan Rowhani's highly anticipated appearance before the UN General Assembly.
Shortly after her release, Sotoudeh told AFP by phone from home that she was in "good" physical and psychological condition after three years in prison, and pledged to continue defending human rights.
"Psychologically, my condition is very good but my experience - with all the psychological pressure, the tense security atmosphere (in jail), and not having access to phone calls among other things - was very tough," Sotoudeh said in an energetic tone, as her family was heard cheering.
She said that physically her condition was also "good", despite going on hunger strike nearly 11 months ago in protest at the harsh conditions of her imprisonment and pressure on her family.
Hailing from a religious middle class family, the mother of two was among the few lawyers to take on high-profile rights and political cases, including juveniles facing the death penalty, before her arrest in 2010.
Sentenced to 11 years in January 2011 and banned from practising law for 20 years for conspiring against state security, she was temporarily freed in January in the face of calls from the United Nations, the European Union and main international human rights groups.
On Wednesday, she sounded certain that this time her release was permanent. "The officer who drove me home said I was permanently released, I don't have to return to prison," she said.
When asked if she would continue defending human rights, she replied: "Definitely. I have permission to work and I will continue."