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Iran jails film director Rasoulof for ‘security’ offences: lawyer

Tehran – An Iranian court has sentenced prominent filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof to jail time for “collusion against national security”, his lawyer Babak Paknia said Wednesday.

Rasoulof’s film “The Seed of the Sacred Fig” is due to be shown at the main competition at Cannes Film Festival this month.

The director, who is in his early 50s, has been sentenced to eight years in prison but will only serve five, Paknia said in a post on social media platform X.

Under Iranian law, jail sentences run concurrently.

According to the lawyer, the verdict had been confirmed by the appeals court and also included “flogging, a fine, and confiscation of property”.

He said that the court had found Rasoulof guilty of “collusion against national security”.

Official media in Iran have yet to publish the verdict.

On April 30, Paknia said Iranian authorities had summoned for questioning some crew members involved in the production of “The Seed of the Sacred Fig”, adding that they were under pressure to have it withdrawn from the Cannes festival.

Some crew members have been “interrogated” in recent weeks while actors had also been questioned and barred from leaving Iran, the lawyer said.

It was not immediately clear how many people involved in the production have been interrogated.

Rasoulof won the Golden Bear, the Berlin Film Festival’s top prize, in 2020 with his anti-capital punishment film “There Is No Evil”.

He was detained in July 2022 and released the following year after a wave of nationwide protests that began in September 2022 subsided.

Paknia had previously said that it was not clear whether Rasoulof would be allowed to leave Iran to attend the Cannes festival in southern France.

Appearances at the Cannes Festival have in recent years been increasingly contentious for Iranian directors and actors.

Prominent director Saeed Roustaee was sentenced to six months in prison for the screening of his film “Leila’s Brothers” at the 2022 festival.

Iranian authorities said at the time it had been shown without authorisation.

The film’s star, Taraneh Alidoosti, was released in early 2023 after almost three weeks in jail over her support for the protest movement which broke out in 2022.

The months-long demonstrations were sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested for allegedly flouting Iran’s strict dress code for women.

Iran has long had a thriving cinema scene, with figures like Jafar Panahi and Asghar Farhadi scooping awards around the world.

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