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Award-winning filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof has fled Iran to avoid an 8-year prison sentence imposed over his work.

The appeals court decision came as Rasoulof’s latest movie, The Seed of the Sacred Fig, premieres at the Cannes Film Festival this week. Iranian authorities had pressured the director, the producers, and actors to withdraw from the competition.

Rasoulof said in a statement on Monday:

I arrived in Europe a few days ago after a long and complicated journey….I didn’t have much time to make a decision. I had to choose between prison and leaving Iran. With a heavy heart, I chose exile.

The Islamic Republic confiscated my passport in September 2017. Therefore, I had to leave Iran secretly.

Jean-Christophe Simon, CEO of the film’s distributor, confirmed, “We are very happy and much relieved that Mohammad has safely arrived in Europe after a dangerous journey. We hope he will be able to attend the Cannes premiere.”

Rasoulof criticized the Iranian regime’s repression amid the nationwide “Woman, Life, Freedom” protests:

Death sentences are being executed as the Islamic Republic has targeted the lives of protesters and civil rights activists. It’s hard to believe, but right now as I’m writing this, the young rapper, Toomaj Salehi, is held in prison and has been sentenced to death.

The scope and intensity of repression has reached a point of brutality where people expect news of another heinous government crime every day. The criminal machine of the Islamic Republic is continuously and systematically violating human rights.

The director summarized the regime’s failed effort to keep his film out of Cannes. Actors and crew had endured “lengthy interrogations” and banned from leaving Iran. Their families had been summoned and threatened. The cinematographer’s office was raid, and all of his equipment confiscated.


Leading political scientist Sadegh Zibakalam has been imprisoned and faces sentencing on multiple charges, says Iran’s judiciary.

The judiciary did not give details but Iranian media said Zibakalam, 75, will serve a three-year prison term.

A long-time professor at Tehran University, Zibakalam was arrested as he headed to a Tehran book fair to premote his new book Why Don’t They Take You?

Zibakalam has been pursued by authorities for a decade over his analyses, which include criticism of Iran’s nuclear program, the calls for the release of political prisoners, and recognition of the state of Israel. He has appealed for an end to the 13-year house arrest of leaders of the Green Movement, 2009 Presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi and Mousavi’s wife, the academic and artist Zahra Rahnavard.

In March 2018, the professor was sentenced to a year in prispon and a two-year ban from any political and media activity because of his interview with the German outlet Deutsche Welle.

ORIGINAL ENTRY: Iran’s appeals court has upheld an eight-year prison sentence on award-winning filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof (pictured).

Rasoulof has been periodically detained and harassed since the mass protests in 2009 against the disputed Presidential election.

The upholding of the latest sentence came after Rasoulof defied pressure from Iranian officials to withdraw his new film, “The Seed of the Sacred Fig”, from competition in the Cannes Film Festival.

Actors and producers involved with the film were summoned and questioned, to convince Rasoulof to withdraw from the festival.

Rasoulof’s lawyer Babak Paknia said his client was sentenced because he signed statements supporting basic human rights, and because of his films and documentaries. The director was charged with “collusion with the intention of committing a crime against national security”.

Rasoulof was first arrested in 2010, detained on set and accused of filming without a permit. He was sentenced to six years in prison, later reduced to one year.

In September 2017 his passport was confiscated andhe was banned from leaving the country.

On July 23, 2019, Rasoulof was condemned by a Revolutionary Court to a year in prison and a 2-year ban on leaving the country and on participation in social and political activity. His “crime” was his film A Man of Integrity. The following March, he was sentenced for one year in prison for three of his films, which were labelled “propaganda against the system”, and he was banned from filmmaking for two years.

Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran, commented:

One by one, the Iranian authorities are going after the leading lights of Iranian arts and culture, trying to silence dissent and crush artistic freedom, whether through prison or hanging.

A few weeks ago, dissident rapper Toomaj Salehi was sentenced to death for his music, and now Rasoulof has been sentenced to flogging and years of imprisonment.

The sentence came after the Islamic Republic’s attempt to strong-arm Rasoulof into withdrawing his film from Cannes failed, and it shows the depths to which the Iranian authorities will go to punish any individual who is brave enough to pursue their art independently.