A petition calling for the release of an imprisoned Iranian artist whose sentence looks set to be increased because she shook her lawyer’s hand has reached nearly 10,000 signatures.
Satirical cartoonist Atena Farghadani, 29, was jailed earlier this year for depicting Iranian government ministers as monkeys and goats, but is now facing a longer sentence amid claims over the handshake.
Charges of an “illegitimate sexual relationship short of adultery” have been brought against Farghadani and her lawyer Mohammad Moghimi amid allegations he visited her in jail and shook her hand. Handshakes between men and women are illegal in Iran.
She and Moghimi are due to be tried over the handshake and lawyers predict that her already lengthy sentence of 12 years and nine months will be increased.
A petition launched by Amnesty International calling for Iran to release her immediately has been signed by 9,867 people at the time of going to press.
Amnesty’s petition is in relation to Farghadani’s initial conviction and claims that her trial on charges of “insulting members of parliament through paintings” lasted just half an hour and relied on “evidence” extracted under interrogation.
Farghadani was found guilty in June of “colluding against national security”, “spreading propaganda against the system” and “insulting members of the parliament” through her artwork.
The conviction relates to a cartoon protest at plans by the Iranian government to outlaw voluntary sterilisation and to restrict access to contraception which Farghadani published on social media.
However, the cartoonist was first arrested in August 2014 after publishing her satirical artworks on Facebook and spent three months in Evin prison in Tehran before being released in November.
It is believed that her actions in protest at her treatment during the initial jail time she did last year contributed to the considerable length of her subsequent sentence.
In December last year Farghadani wrote letters of protest to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, Hassan Rouhani, the President, and the Head of the Prison Service.
When she received no reply from any of Iran’s leaders she published a video on YouTube in which she claims she was ill-treated during her time in Evin prison in 2014, with details including being strip-searched for a minor offence. beaten and verbally abused.
She was re-arrested in January 2015 and sentenced in June by judge Abolghassem Salavati who is notorious for leading numerous controversial trials, many of which resulted in executions.
A statement from Amnesty reads: “Atena's lawyer, Mohammad Moghimi, visited Atena in prison after her trial and shook her hand. The handshake led to charges of an 'illegitimate sexual relationship short of adultery' and 'indecent conduct' being brought against both Atena and Moghimi, who will be tried for those charges in due course.”
It continues: “Iran has pledged to protect free speech, including through artistic activities, as a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” The Iranian Embassy in London declined to comment on the case.
Banned, censored and 'offensive' artworks
Banned, censored and 'offensive' artworks
1/8 'My Bed' - Tracey Emin
Emin, one of the Young British Artists, created arguably her most iconic and controversial piece of art with 'My Bed'. It was short-listed for the 1999 Tuner Prize but sparked public outrage and a media furore. Emin's own bed is displayed here, surrounded by evidence of her sexual, self-destructive exploits. Stained sheets, fag butts, empty beer bottles, condom and worn underwear can all be seen in this image of suicidal depression following a major break-up.
2/8 'Christ You Know It Ain't Easy' - Sarah Lucas
This 3D piece by English artist and Tracey Emin contemporary Sarah Lucas is made from cigarette butts and depicts Christ being crucified on the cross of the English flag. It is thought to be a comment on the difficulty of quitting smoking. Lucas took up the habit aged 9. Much of her work is designed to be shocking and provocative - someone is always offended.
3/8 'Fountain' - Marcel Duchamp
This scandalous porcelain urinal, signed R.Mutt, was rejected by the Society of Independent Artists in 1917 even though the rules stated that any submission would be accepted from artists who paid the fee. Pictured here is a replica of the 1917 piece. The original is believed lost. 'Fountain' is an example of Duchamp's revolutionary 'readymades' - ordinary manufactured objects designated by the artist as art.
4/8 'The Holy Virgin Mary' - Chris Ofili
The provocative Sensation exhibit at the Brooklyn Art Museum in 1999 caused great offence. Nigerian artist Ofili's depiction of an African Madonna surrounded by black bottoms and elephant poo was called 'anti-Catholic' and 'horrible' by New York's mayor at the time. So 'horrible' that Rudy Giuliani filed a lawsuit against the museum.
5/8 'Immersion Piss Christ' - Andres Serrano
Two Catholic activists partially destroyed US artist Serrano's artwork while it was on display in the south of France. Created in 1987, it represents a small plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist's own urine.
6/8 'Western-Christian Civilization' - Leon Ferrari
Argentine conceptual artist Ferrari often dealt with power and religion in his work, using images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary with cages, frying pans and even meat blenders. Showing Christ crucified on a fighter plane, 'Western-Christian Civilization' was a protest work against the Vietnam War. Governments were constantly battling against Ferrari - he was exiled from Brazil and a 2004 exhibition of his work was temporarily forced to close when Pope Francis intervened.
7/8 'Bacchante and Infant Faun' - Frederick William MacMonnies
This bronze statue caused an uproar in 1854 when an architect tried to erect it in the courtyard of the Boston Public Library. Modern viewers will see little to get het up about but the nude Roman wine deity's 'drunken indecency' offended the Women's Christian Temperance Union. It was taken down to the more liberal New York instead and is now exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. MacMonnies earned worldwide fame as a result.
8/8 'Saint Bartholomew, Exquisite Pain' - Damien Hirst
No stranger to controversy, Hirst's original sculpture had no fig leaf to protect his modesty. The artist added the extra detail to prevent issues with Chinese collectors and left it in when the sculpture was displayed in Qatar. Nudity can offend Islamic culture, particularly in places where the general public has not been exposed to contemporary art.
Farghadani is believed to be serving her sentence in Gharchak jail and is reported to have gone on hunger strike.
The artist now faces a fresh trial on indecency charges and Amnesty predicts that her sentence will be extended.