Iran: Iran sentences film actress to 1 year in prison and 90 lashes'
An Iranian court has sentenced an Iranian actress to one year in jail and 90 lashes related to her role in an Australian-made film portraying social alienation, artistic repression and drug use in Iran, according to an Iranian opposition website.
"In an outcome that could have been lifted from the pages of the movie's script"--"My Tehran for Sale"--the film's lead actress, Marzieh Vafamehr, "was arrested in July and received her sentence at the weekend, according to reports quoting Iranian opposition website kalameh.com," the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
In the 2009 film, Vafamehr portrays a Tehran actress whose theater work is banned by the authorities and is thus driven to Tehran's cultural underground. Ultimately, she contemplates whether to leave Iran for exile abroad.
"Vafamehr often appears with a shaved head and no headscarf in the film, which also explores cultural oppression in Iran and taboos such as drug use," the paper said.
Vafamehr's attorney has reportedly appealed the sentence which was handed down on Saturday. Technically, she was accused of participating in a film whose shooting did not have the required permits. However, both the film's director and the actress's filmmaker husband Nasser Taghvai said the charge is baseless.
"The accusations against Marzieh have no grounds," Granaz Moussavi, the Melbourne-based Iranian-Australian director of the film, said in a statement Tuesday, the AP reported. "All the documentation has been provided to the Iranian court to show that permits were in place for the production of the film."
Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd also expressed concern about the sentence Tuesday.
"The Australian government condemns the use of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is deeply concerned by reports that Ms. Marzieh Vafamehr has been sentenced to one year in jail and 90 lashes for her role in an Australian-produced film," a spokeswoman for Rudd said in a statement, the AP wrote. "The Australian government urges Iran to protect the rights of all Iranians and foreign citizens."
Iran's Orwellian justice system has provoked past controversies. Last year, for example, Iranian courts approved a death-by-stoning sentence for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a woman accused of adultery and murder charges. Ashtiani's sentence was stayed, but only after a global outcry from international human-rights groups.
A moratorium had been declared on stoning in 2002, but the nation's Islamic courts have continued to hand down stoning sentences in accordance with the strict wording of the law.
Lashing sentences are not unheard of in the region. Last month, the Saudi king reportedly overturned a lashing sentence handed down to a Saudi woman who had been arrested for driving.