Iranian actress freed from prison on reduced sentence

Reuters, Saturday 29 Oct 2011

Iranian actress Marzieh Vafamehr was released from prison Monday after her sentence was overturned by an appeals court, Amnesty International reports

Vafamehr had been sentenced to a year in prison and 90 lashes for appearing in the 2009 Australian film "My Tehran for Sale," which is banned in Iran.

In the movie -- which was filmed in the Iranian capital -- Vafamehr is seen with a shaved head, and without the head covering that's required of Iranian women. In one scene, she also appears to drink alcohol -- also a no-no in her culture.

According to Amnesty International, the appeals court reduced Vafamehr's sentence to three months, and removed the lashing aspect of her sentence.

Vafamehr was arrested in early July.

In the film, Vafamehr plays an actress who is forced to live a secret life.

When news of the arrest broke, the film's producers, Julie Ryan and Kate Croser, expressed their "deep shock and sadness at the sentence imposed by the Iranian government" in a statement to TheWrap. They also emphasized that Vafamehr's participation in the film "was limited to her role as an actress, and she was not in any other way involved in the behind-the-scenes filmmaking."

While Vafamehr has been freed, Amnesty International points out that Iran has been cracking down on filmmakers.

Hadi Afarideh, Naser Saffarian, Mohsen Shahrnazdar and Katayoun Shahabi were arrested Sept. 17 on suspicion of having sold their films to foreign broadcasters.

Doing so without permission from the government is prohibited in Iran; recently, the country's police chief, Esma’il Ahmadi-Moghaddam, equated dealings with the BBC and Voice of America with conspiring with enemy security services, Amnesty International said.

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