Dissident Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof has been sentenced to eight years in prison as well as flogging, a fine and confiscation of his property, his lawyer Babak Paknia announced in a post on X on Wednesday.

“The main reason for issuing this sentence is for signing statements and making films and documentaries. In the court’s opinion, these actions were examples of collusion with the intention of committing a crime against the country’s security,” wrote Paknia.

News of Rasoulof’s sentencing follows in the wake of reports that the director had come under pressure from the Iranian authorities to withdraw his upcoming film The Seed of the Sacred Fig Tree from the Cannes Film Festival where it is due to world premiere in Competition.

Rasoulof has been in the crosshairs of Iran’s hardline Islamic Republic government throughout his career for challenging its authoritarian rule.

In his latest brush with Iran’s hardline regime, he was arrested in July 2022 for signing a petition titled “Lay Down Your Arms” calling on security forces to exercise restraint in relation to popular protests.

He was released on a temporary basis in February 2023 from Tehran’s Evin jail due to ill health and has been under house arrest ever since.

Last year, he was invited to serve on Cannes Un Certain Regard Jury but was unable to accept the invitation after being barred from leaving Iran.

He was not expected to attend the festival this either but the screening of his film The Seed of the Sacred Fig Tree is due to go ahead as scheduled in spite of pressure from the Iranian authorities.

The director has a long relationship with Cannes.

His films Manuscripts Don’t Burn (2013) and A Man Of Integrity (2017) world premiered in Un Certain Regard in 2013 and 2017, winning the Fipresci prize and best film prize respectively.

A Man Of Integrity was the last film with which Rasoulof travelled the festival circuit. After its premiere in Cannes, he presented it at Telluride in September 2017 and then had his passport confiscated on his return.

He defied a filmmaking ban and went on to make his searing drama There Is No Evil, capturing Iranian society under the Islamic Republic regime, which won the Berlinale Golden Bear in 2020.

Source » deadline