Iranian filmmaker flees his country after flogging, prison sentence

Award-winning Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof has fled to Europe just days after he was sentenced to prison, lashings and confiscation of property by the Islamic Republic.

“I arrived in Europe a few days ago after a long and complicated journey,” Rasoulof said in a statement dated Sunday and shared with The Associated Press.

Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof poses during a photo call for the film The Immigrant at the 66th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France on May 24, 2013. Rasoulof said in a statement signed by dozens of movie industry professionals on his Instagram account late Saturday, May 14, 2022 that security forces made some arrests and confiscated film production equipment during raids conducted in recent days.

His lawyer told the AP last week that he was sentenced to eight years in prison and lashings, shortly before his expected trip to the Cannes Film Festival. Iranian authorities have yet to acknowledge the filmmaker’s sentence and no immediate comment regarding his departure was released, the news wire added.

In a statement posted to his Instagram account on Monday, Rasoulof ripped into the Iranian government, calling it an oppressive and barbaric regime.

“If geographical Iran suffers beneath the boots of your religious tyranny, cultural Iran is alive in the common minds of millions of Iranians who were forced to leave Iran due to your brutality and no power can impose its will on it. From today, I am a resident of cultural Iran,” he wrote.

The charges came after Rasoulof was among a group of artists to co-sign a letter pushing for authorities to “put your gun down” during demonstrations over a 2022 building collapse that left at least 29 people dead in the city of Abadan, the AP reported.

“This judgment is issued due to Mr. Rasoulof signing statements in support of the Iranian people,” his lawyer Babak Paknia told the AP. He said that those statements, along with his tweets and further social activities, were found to be instances of ‘action against national security.’

He faced trial in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, Pakina told the news wire. In addition to prison time, Rasoulof also faces floggings, fines and asset seizures, per his lawyer.

Rasoulof was supposed to attend the Cannes Film Festival later this month for the premiere of his new film “The Seed of the Sacred Fig.” He is best known for his drama film, “There Is No Evil,” which centers around the use of the death penalty in Iran.

He has dealt with repeated prison sentences, film bans or travel bans in Iran, which rejects Western-embraced artists.

The Associated Press contributed.

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