• Saturday, Nov 28, 2020
  • Last Update : 02:47 am

Award-winning Iranian film-maker summoned to prison

  • Published at 08:23 pm March 6th, 2020
Mohammad Rasoulof

Rasoulof received an order via text message on Wednesday to appear and start serving his sentence, his lawyer Nasser Zarafshan said in a phone interview

An Iranian director who recently won the top prize at the Berlin film festival has been summoned to serve a one-year prison sentence, his lawyer told AFP on Thursday.

Mohammad Rasoulof, 48, won the festival's Golden Bear for "There is no evil" in February, but was unable to accept the prize in person as he was barred from leaving Iran.

Rasoulof received an order via text message on Wednesday to appear and start serving his sentence, his lawyer Nasser Zarafshan said in a phone interview.

The director was charged with "propaganda against the system" and sentenced to a year in prison last year, according to the attorney.

Zarafshan said the sentence was "mostly" over his previous film, "A Man of Integrity". Rasoulof's passport was confiscated in 2017 after the film's premier at Cannes.

Zarafshan has advised his client not to turn himself in for now, he said, considering the novel coronavirus outbreak in Iran.

"With the congestion in prisons... there are clear orders from the judiciary that prisoners be given leave time, and sentences not be carried out for the current" Iranian year that ends in a few weeks, he said.

Zarafshan added that a summons via "SMS has no legal basis," and the judiciary should send an official warning detailing an allowed time period for his client to appear.

Iran has scrambled to halt the rapid spread of COVID-19, which has claimed 107 lives and infected 3,513 in the country in the past two weeks.

Officials have already sent 54,000 prisoners on temporary leave, seemingly over concerns of the virus spreading in the prison system.

Rasoulof's new film is a critical work about the death penalty in Iran, telling four loosely related individual stories from the executioner to the families of the victims.

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