Iranian filmmaker jailed for a year over graffiti documentary

Iranian authorities have sentenced filmmaker Keywan Karimi to one year in prison and 223 lashes after finding him guilty of "insulting sanctities." The charges stem from his documentary on political graffiti in Iran.

Filmmaker Keywan Karimi (photo left) has begun serving a year-long prison sentence over a documentary he directed on political graffiti in Iran, his French production company Les Films de l'Apres-Midi confirmed on Thursday.

Society | 19.01.2017

The 31-year-old filmmaker ran into trouble with Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards over a film he directed called "Writing on the City." The documentary details the history of political graffiti in Iran, starting from the country's 1979 Islamic revolution to its contested election in 2009.

He spent 15 days in solitary confinement in 2013 when a trailer for "Writing on the City" appeared on YouTube. At the time he was accused of making "propaganda against the regime" and "insulting religious values."

Since his initial arrest, Karimi has also been charged with having extramarital affairs, drinking alcohol and making pornography, Karimi told news agency AFP in May, adding that the charges are "ridiculous."

'I am not a political activist': Karimi

Initially, the filmmaker was found guilty of "insulting sanctities" in October 2015 and was sentenced to six years behind bars. An appeals court reduced his sentence in February, after international outcry which included the support of acclaimed Iranian directors Jafar Panahi and Mohsen Makhmalbaf.

Five of the six years were suspended, but the court maintained the original sentence requirement that Karimi endure 223 lashes.

Karimi told the Associated Press earlier this week that he hopes to use his time in jail to finish the script for his next movie.

"Be sure, I'm strong. Inside, and mentally, I'm ready," he said, adding that he is determined to stay in Iran despite challenges.

He is one of several journalists, artists, poets and fashion models who have been arrested in a crackdown led by hard-liners who oppose President Hassan Rouhani's more moderate policies.

"I am not a political activist," Karimi told news agency AFP in a May interview. "I am not being sent to prison because I oppose the regime but because I am a filmmaker."

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Karimi's first feature film "Drum" premiered this summer at the Venice International Film Festival.

rs/cmk (AP, AFP)

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