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Judiciary denies British-Iranian volleyball woman jailed

TEHRAN: A top Iranian judiciary official on Monday denied that a British-Iranian woman, arrested in June after trying to attend a men’s volleyball match, had been sentenced to jail, media reported.

The lawyer for Ghoncheh Ghavami said earlier this month that the 25-year-old law graduate from London had been sentenced to a year in prison.

“According to the verdict she was sentenced to one year in jail,” lawyer Alizadeh Tabatabaie was quoted as saying on November 2 by Iranian media.

Tabatabaie said at the time he had not received official notification of the verdict but that the judge had showed him a copy of it after Ghavami’s trial for spreading “propaganda against the regime” — a broad charge often used by the judiciary.

But deputy judiciary head Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejeie dismissed this claim, saying that no sentence had been pronounced because the trial was still ongoing.

“We have not finished examining the case. The court must still give a ruling on another charge” against Ghavami, Mohseni-Ejeie told reporters during his weekly news conference.

“The verdict has not been issued,” he said.

Asked by AFP for an explanation, Tabatabaie declined to comment.

Ghavami was detained on June 20 at Azadi (“Freedom” in Farsi) Stadium where Iran’s national volleyball team was to play Italy, after female fans and even women journalists were told they would not be allowed to attend, leading to a brief demonstration.

She was released within hours but was rearrested days later at a police station she had visited to reclaim items confiscated from her near the stadium.

Mohseni-Ejeie, who is also chief spokesman for the Iranian judiciary, said after Ghavami’s second arrest: “She is being investigated and is currently in prison awaiting the end of the investigation”.

He did not elaborate.

Ghavami’s trial began behind closed doors in October.

Her case has drawn considerable attention because of her dual nationality and time spent in prison before the trial, and because her arrest was linked to sport — a claim dismissed by the authorities.

On Sunday, the international volleyball federation FIVB said it will not allow Iran to host international events for as long as women are barred from attending the game.

Women are also banned from football matches in the Islamic republic, with officials saying this is to protect them from lewd behaviour among male fans. -AFP

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