A court in Iran has sentenced renowned director Mohammad Rasoulof to eight years in prison, flogging, a fine, and the confiscation of property for national security crimes, his lawyer confirmed on Wednesday.

In a statement on X, Rasoulof’s lawyer Babak Paknia wrote that the court found Rasoulof’s films and documentaries, along with his public statements, to be “examples of collusion with the intention of committing a crime against the security of the country”.

Paknia added that the judgment was confirmed in a court of appeal and has now been sent for enforcement.

Rasoulof is one of Iran’s most prominent directors, and his film The Seed of the Sacred Fig is scheduled to premiere at the Cannes film festival, which starts on 14 May.

The director and the festival reportedly were under a lot of pressure from Iranian authorities to pull the film from competition.

Producers of the film have also reported harassment and actors were summoned for questioning and have been banned from leaving the country.

Last week, Paknia wrote on X that it wasn’t clear whether Rasoulof would be able to travel to Cannes to attend his film’s screening.

In an email to The Guardian, Paknia confirmed the developments: “He is accused of making [The Seed of the Sacred Fig] without obtaining a license from the related authorities, alongside accusations that the actresses were not applying hijab properly and were filmed without hijab”.

“All key members of the film are banned from leaving the country and have been investigated by the security forces of the Ministry of Intelligence.”

Rasoulof has long faced legal persecution in his home country, but this is the harshest sentence among the series of punishments he has been given.

Rasolouf was sentenced to six years in prison in 2010, later reduced to one year, after he was accused of filming without correct permits.

In 2017, after Rasoulof’s film on corruption in Iran, A Man of Integrity, won the Un Certain Regard sidebar at Cannes, his passport was confiscated when he returned to Tehran from Colorado’s Telluride Film Festival.

He was then sentenced to a one-year prison term and a two-year ban on leaving the country. He was also prohibited from any participation in social or political activity two years later by the Islamic revolutionary court.

Rasoulof then went on to win the Golden Bear, the Berlin Film Festival’s top prize, in 2020 for his film about the death penalty in Iran, There Is No Evil. However, he was unable to attend the film festival because of the travel ban imposed on him and his daughter Baran received the award on his behalf.

He was then incarcerated again in July 2022, after he criticised the response of Iranian security forces to protests over a building collapse in Abadan. He was released in February 2023, but barred from attending the Cannes film festival, where he was to serve as a member of the Un Certain Regard jury.

Iran’s Independent Filmmaker Association has criticised the judgment in a statement, reported CNN.

“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.”

Appearances at film festivals for Iranian directors and actors sees a lot of persecution from the government, despite the country’s thriving film industry.

Director Saeed Roustaee was sentenced to six months in prison for screening his film Leila’s Brothers at the Cannes film festival in 2022.

Actor Taraneh Alidoosti, who played the lead, spent almost three weeks in jail over her support for the protests that broke out in Iran in 2022 over the death of Mahsa Amini in custody.

Celebrated director Jafar Panahi has been subjected to several detentions and house arrests, with his most recent seven months-long imprisonment ending in February 2023.

Source » independent