An appeals court has reduced the sentence of Iranian cartoonist and activist Atena Farghadani from 12 years in prison to 18 months for drawing a politically sensitive cartoon.
The new verdict means Farghadani will be released on May 11, 2016, according to her lawyer.
The 29-year-old cartoonist has been held in Evin Prison since she was arrested on January 10, 2015. In May 2015, she was tried in Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court, presided over by the notorious Judge Abolghasem Salavati, who sentenced her to 12 years and nine months in jail.
Her sentence was based on a wide range of charges for drawing a cartoon that depicted members of the Iranian Parliament as animals. The cartoon was drawn in protest against two proposed bills that would outlaw voluntary sterilization, restrict access to contraceptives, and tighten divorce laws.
Farghadani’s lawyer, Mohammad Moghimi, announced the news of the appeals court decision on his Facebook page on Monday, April 25:
“The appeals court has made it possible for Miss Farghadani to return to a normal life and normal society,” he wrote. “Thanks to the judge of the appeals court and to everyone who supported her.”
Moghimi said that with the new verdict, Farghadani’s release is scheduled for May 11, 2016.
He also detailed the appeals court’s decision:
“Miss Farghadani has been acquitted of the charges of ‘gathering and colluding with counter-revolutionary elements’ and ‘acting against national security.’ The three-year prison sentence for ‘Insulting the Supreme Leader’ has been replaced by a four-year suspended sentence. Moreover, she has received a fine for ‘insulting members of parliament and the president’ and ‘insulting prison guards.’ She has been sentenced to 18 months in prison on the charge of ‘propaganda against the regime’,” he wrote.
Farghadani was originally arrested in August 2014 and detained for two months – most of which she served in solitary confinement. Following her release, she posted a video on YouTube describing how prison guards had mistreated her physically, which was shared in the press and on social media. Instead of investigating the allegations, authorities re-arrested her in January 2015.
In October 2015, the news emerged that Farghadani faced additional charges, including “indecent conduct” and “illegitimate relations,” after shaking hands with her lawyer during a prison visit. Under Iranian law, it is illegal to shake hands with a person of the opposite sex who is not a family member. Farghadani was later acquitted of these charges.
In addition to imposing new charges on Farghadani, the young artist was also subjected to a “virginity test” in prison, a move that was condemned by human rights groups.
Read more about Atena Farghadani on her profile.