Award-winning director Mohammad Rasoulof sentenced to jail in Iran


The Iranian director who won the top award at last month’s Berlin film festival, has been ordered to serve a one-year prison sentence over his movies, his lawyer has said.

Mohammad Rasoulof’s sentence arose from three films that Iran’s authorities found to be “propaganda against the system”, his lawyer Nasser Zarafshan told the Associated Press.

The sentence also included an order than he stop film-making for two years, the lawyer said.

According to Zarafshan, Rasoulof received the order via a text message from the judiciary. Rasoul of will not turn himself in to authorities and will appeal the order, especially given the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in Iran, the lawyer said.

Authorities have already sent home some 54,000 prisoners temporarily in a bid to prevent the virus spreading through the country’s penal system.

There was no immediate state media report about Rasoulof’s summons, nor any comment from judiciary officials.

Rasoulof won the Golden Bear for his film There Is No Evil, which tells four stories loosely connected to the use of the death penalty in Iran and dealing with personal freedom under tyranny. Rasoulof could not go to Berlin to accept the award in person, because he is banned from travelling by Iranian authorities.

Organisers left an empty chair and place sign for Rasoulof at the news conference for his entry. The director’s daughter, Baran, accepted the award on his behalf.

Rasoulof has faced problems before for his work in Iran. In 2011, he and fellow director Jafar Panahi were arrested in Iran for filming without a permit. The pair were sentenced to six years in prison and were banned from film-making for 20 years on charges that included “making propaganda” against the ruling system, but Rasoulof’s punishment was later reduced to a year on appeal.

His film Goodbye won a prize at Cannes in 2011, but the director was not allowed to travel to France to accept it. He was also prevented from travelling to Germany in 2013 after his passport was confiscated by authorities. (Source: The Guardian)