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Iranian artist sentenced to 12 years in prison

Atena Farghadani punished after depicting politicians as animals

by Gareth Harris  |  3 June 2015
Iranian artist sentenced to 12 years in prison
Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani © Free Atena
A court in Tehran has sentenced an Iranian artist to 12 years and nine months in prison for criticising the government and “spreading propaganda against the system”. Atena Farghadani was arrested in August last year for drawing a cartoon that mocked members of parliament; her trial began on 19 May.

Farghadani depicted Iranian parliamentarians as monkeys and goats in protest at plans to introduce two separate bills, which will outlaw voluntary sterilisation and restrict access to contraception. She faced charges of “insulting members of the parliament through paintings” and “insulting the Supreme Leader” according to the Iranian judiciary.

Amnesty International says in a statement that the sentence is “far in excess of the statutory maximum punishment for the charges she faced”. Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, the Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa deputy director, adds: “Atena Farghadani has effectively been punished for her cartoons with a sentence that is itself a gross caricature of justice.” The Washington Post reports that an appeal is planned.
 
The authorities took action after Farghadani showed works dedicated to demonstrators killed in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 election when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president. “[Her] exhibition, entitled Birds of Earth, was attended by relatives of political prisoners,” Amnesty says.

Last summer, 12 officers from the Revolutionary Guards confiscated her belongings including her books and laptop. She was held in Evin Prison in Tehran for almost two months, with 15 days in solitary confinement.
 
She was freed in November but was rearrested after posting a video message on YouTube in which she says she was allegedly beaten by guards at Evin. Farghadani also describes how wardens seized paper cups she had flattened and used as canvases for painting.

She was re-arrested and was held at Gharchak Prison in the southern city of Varamin. Early February, she started a “wet” hunger strike (taking water but not food) and was transferred to an external hospital. According to Twitter feeds based in Iran, she ended her hunger strike after being transferred to Evin prison early March.

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