British-Iranian volleyball woman sentenced to one year in jail

By Arthur MacMillan, AFP

TEHRAN, Iran–A British-Iranian woman who was arrested in Tehran after trying to attend a volleyball match has been sentenced to one year in jail, her lawyer was reported as saying Sunday. The case of Ghoncheh Ghavami, a 25-year-old law graduate from London, has attracted attention at the highest political level, given her dual nationality. She was detained on June 20 at Azadi (��Freedom�� in Farsi) Stadium where Iran’s national volleyball team was to play Italy, and although she was released within a few hours she was re-arrested days later. She eventually went on trial behind closed doors last month. ��According to the verdict she was sentenced to one year,�� her lawyer Alizadeh Tabatabaie was quoted in Iranian media as saying. No reason was given for the conviction though Ghavami had been accused of spreading propaganda against the regime, a broad charge often used by Iran’s judiciary. Asked if the sentence could be reduced, Tabatabaie, who has not been allowed to visit his client, said: ��Considering that Ghoncheh Ghavami has no criminal record, the court can alleviate the verdict. ��In a meeting Ghoncheh had with her mother on Wednesday, she said no new charges have been filed against her.�� Hunger Strike

So far, Ghavami has been held in the capital’s notorious Evin Prison for 126 days. Last month she spent 14 days on hunger strike. A Facebook page where her friends and family have campaigned for her release features photographs of her against the slogan: ��Jailed for wanting to watch a volleyball match.�� Officials, however, have said Ghavami was detained for security reasons unrelated to the sporting event. An update on the Facebook account appeared to corroborate the one-year sentence and it criticized the lack of transparency shown by the judiciary. ��This morning Ghoncheh’s family and lawyer returned empty handed from branch 26 of Revolutionary court,�� it said, referring to Saturday. ��It is not clear to her family and lawyer as to what the current legal basis of her detention is. A fair and just legal process according to Iran’s legal framework is the basic right of every Iranian citizen. Why are these rights not upheld in Ghoncheh’s case?�� Ghavami’s arrest came after female fans and even women journalists were told they would not be allowed to attend the volleyball match. National police chief General Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam said it was ��not yet in the public interest�� for men and women to attend such events together. ��The police are applying the law,�� he said at the time. Women are also banned from attending soccer matches in Iran, with officials saying this is to protect them from lewd behavior among male fans.