Shocking! Iranian Filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof Jailed & Lashed Before Cannes Trip!

Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, internationally acclaimed for his work, has been given an eight-year imprisonment sentence and ordered corporal punishment, according to his attorney, just before his planned attendance at the Cannes film festival.

Rasoulof, 51, renowned for his movie “There Is No Evil,” has become another victim of the escalating suppression of dissent in the Islamic Republic, following a series of mass uprisings, including those protesting the 2022 death of Mahsa Amini.

The Iranian government has not publicly acknowledged the sentence. However, Rasoulof and other artists had previously signed a letter pleading with authorities to “put your gun down” following protests over a building collapse that claimed at least 29 lives in the southwestern city of Abadan in 2022. Since then, artists, celebrities, athletes, and others have faced questioning or imprisonment.

“This judgment is a result of Mr. Rasoulof’s public support for the Iranian people,” his lawyer Babak Paknia informed the Associated Press. Paknia said that these statements, combined with his tweets and other social activities, were deemed “actions against national security.”

Rasoulof was tried in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, added Paknia.

These courts, often dealing with cases involving Western-connected individuals who are later used in prisoner exchanges by Iran, have been internationally condemned for not allowing defendants to choose their own lawyers or even view the evidence against them in private hearings.

Additionally, Rasoulof is facing corporal punishment, fines, and confiscation of assets, his lawyer stated.

The Iranian representation at the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment on Rasoulof’s sentencing. He was set to travel to Cannes to debut his new film, “The Seed of the Sacred Fig,” later this month.

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“There Is No Evil,” a film that narrates four loosely related stories about the death penalty in Iran, received the Golden Bear award at Berlin in 2020. Iranian authorities prevented Rasoulof from accepting the award in person due to a travel ban. Shortly after receiving the award, he was handed a one-year prison sentence for three films that authorities deemed as “propaganda against the system.”

Rasoulof has repeatedly faced imprisonment and bans on his films in Iran, where the Shiite theocracy has for a long time vilified artists embracing Western values as part of a “soft war” against its policies. Despite this, Iranian cinema has gained international recognition for its bold, thought-provoking films that depict the struggles of living in the Islamic Republic.

Similarly, filmmaker Saeed Roustayi and his producer faced legal repercussions last year after traveling to Cannes to screen “Leila’s Brothers.”

This article was written by Gambrell for the Associated Press. Tehran-based AP writer Amir Vahdat also contributed to this report.

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