Middle East

Iran sentences renowned director to 8 years in prison and flogging, lawyer says

By Hande Atay Alam and Artemis Moshtaghian, CNN

CNN  — 

A court in Iran has sentenced acclaimed movie director Mohammad Rasoulof to eight years in prison and flogging for national security crimes, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

In a statement on social platform X, Babak Paknia said the court found Rasoulof’s films and documentaries to be “examples of collusion with the intention of committing a crime against the security of the country.”

The court also imposed an unspecified fine and ordered the confiscation of Rasoulof’s property, Paknia added.

CNN has reached out to Iranian authorities for comment.

Rasoulof won a Golden Bear for best film at the Berlinale festival in 2020 for “There Is No Evil” and his film “A Man of Integrity” was recognized for a “Certain Regard” honor at Cannes in 2017. The writer-director’s latest work, “The Seed of the Sacred Fig” is due to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in France next week.

Ahead of the film’s release, the director and his production team faced pressure from the Iranian government, his lawyer has alleged, writing last week on X that some actors had been interrogated and barred from leaving the country by officials. According to Paknia, some also alleged they were asked by officials to tell Rasoulof to withdraw the film from the festival.

Paknia also wrote last week on X that it was unclear whether Rasoulof would be able to travel to Cannes to attend the screening of his film.

In 2022, an Iranian court sentenced Rasoulof to one year in prison and banned him from making films for two years on the charge of “propaganda against the system,” according to Human Rights Watch. Iranian authorities have previously arrested him multiple times and confiscated his passport because of his work, HRW said.

In a statement, Iran’s Independent Filmmaker Association criticized the latest sentence handed to the director.

“Once again, the judiciary’s verdict against Mohammad Rasoulof proved that the law is only a playground for stubbornness and revenge in the legal system contaminated by government jurisprudence,” it said.

“Independent and freedom-loving cinematographers condemn the invalid judgment of the judiciary against Mohammad Rasoulof and stand by him and all the artists who make fun of government censorship.”

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