Saturday 22 October 2016

Iranian cartoonist jailed for 12 years to be charged with “indecency" for shaking lawyer's hand

David Kearns

Published 10/09/2015 | 18:01

Atena Farghadani
Atena Farghadani

An Iranian artist serving more than 12 years in prison for criticising the government on Facebook is facing further charges of “indecency” for allegedly shaking her male lawyer’s hand.

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Atena Farghadani (29) was jailed earlier this year after she depicted Iranian government officials as monkeys and goats in a satirical cartoon.

Now she faces a longer sentence amid claims she and her lawyer Mohammad Moghimi engaged in an “illegitimate sexual relationship short of adultery” because he visited her in jail and, allegedly, shook her hand.

The cartoonist was arrested in August 2014 after publishing her satirical artworks on Facebook and spent three months in Evin prison in Tehran before being released in November.

Ms Farghadani drew her cartoons in protest over plans by the Iranian government to outlaw voluntary sterilisation and to restrict access to contraception.

She was later arrested for a video posted on YouTube detailing her time in prison and was sentenced to 12 years and nine months in prison on charges of “colluding against national security”, “spreading propaganda against the system” and “insulting members of the parliament” through her artwork.

The artist now faces a fresh trial on indecency charges and Amnesty International predicts her sentence will be extended.

“Atena's lawyer, Mohammad Moghimi, visited Atena in prison after her trial and shook her hand,” a statement from Amnesty said.

“The handshake led to charges of an 'illegitimate sexual relationship short of adultery' and 'indecent conduct' being brought against both Atena and Moghimi, who will be tried for those charges in due course.”

Atena Farghadani
Atena Farghadani

While in jail in 2014, Ms Farghadani wrote letters of protest to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, Hassan Rouhani, the president, and the head of the prison service, detailing accounts of the mistreatment she has received at the hands of the prison guards.

Having received no response from Iran’s leaders the artist recorded a video in which she explained what happened to her in Evin prison, including beatings and verbal abuse by guards and being strip-searched over a minor offence.

“I have produced this video with my own free will and consent," she said.

"I am publishing it to prevent such maltreatment of any prisoner. I can only hope that in the future I hope that there will be no political prisoners at all. I also hope that no political prisoner will receive such demeaning and degrading treatment."

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