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Iran Frees Political Prisoners Before Rouhani Comes to UN

Beyond a public-relations gesture in advance of President Hassan Rouhani’s US trip, the release of political prisoners could ease the divisions in Iran following the disputed 2009 presidential elections.
Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh poses with her husband, Reza Khandan, her son Nima (L) and her Daughter Mehraveh (R) at herat her home in Tehran on September 18, 2013, after being freed following three years in prison. Sotoudeh told AFP she was in "good" physical and psychological condition, and pledged to continue her human rights work. Her release came a week before Irans new moderate President Hassan Rowhani, who has promised more freedoms at home and constructive engagement with the world, travels to New

Days before Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani is due to arrive in New York, the Iranian government freed 11 political prisoners Sept. 18, beginning to fulfill Rouhani’s campaign promises to ease domestic repression even as he seeks more constructive engagement with the outside world.

The news of the release of eight women — including well-known human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh — and three men including Mohsen Aminzadeh, a former deputy foreign minister, appeared timed to coincide with Rouhani’s debut on a major international stage at the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly (UNGA). Rouhani’s predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also engineered such releases before his trips to New York each September; Mohammad Khatami, whom Ahmadinejad succeeded, used his first visit to UNGA in 1998 to announce Khatami announced that Iran would not support implementation of a fatwa against British author Salman Rushdie.

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