Iranian actress sentenced to 90 lashes, 1 year in jail

Joshua L. Weinstein

LOS ANGELES (TheWrap.com) - An Iranian actress has been sentenced to 90 lashes and a year in jail for starring in an Australian movie with a shaved head -- and no head-covering.

Marzieh Vafamehr, who appeared in "My Tehran for Sale," has appealed the sentence.

According to Amnesty International, Vafamehr also appears to drink alcohol in the movie. Consuming alcohol is banned under Iranian law. The penalty is 80 lashes -- for the first offense.

The Australian movie, oddly enough, is about an actress in Iran who is forced to live a secret life in order to express herself.

In a written statement to TheWrap, producers Julie Ryan and Kate Croser said Tuesday that the actress's involvement 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."

"As producers of the film 'My Tehran for Sale' we would like to express our deep shock and sadness at the sentence imposed by the Iranian government," they wrote.

Richard Harris, CEO of the South Australian Film Corp., wrote, "We are deeply disturbed by Marzieh Vafamehr's sentence for appearing in Granaz Moussavi's groundbreaking film, which is itself about the risks that artists are prepared to take for creative expression."

Amnesty International on Tuesday criticized the sentence -- and flogging in general.

"If Vafamehr is held solely on account of the peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression, she should be released immediately and unconditionally," the human rights organization said in a written statement.

Vafamehr's sentence is only the most recent example of the Iranian regime's ongoing crackdown on the entertainment industry.

On September 17, Iran arrested five documentary directors and a producer and distributor. Among them was Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, who was detained at the Tehran airport as he prepared to go to the Toronto Film Festival.

And in December 2010, director Jafar Panahi was arrested. He has been sentenced to six years in prison and was banned from filmmaking and from speaking with the foreign press for 20 years.