An Iranian court sentenced artist-activist Atena Farghadani, 28, to 12 years in prison for insulting the government, after publishing a cartoon portraying Parliament members with animal heads.
Farghadani drew the cartoon to protest “legislation to restrict birth-control and make divorce more difficult” in Iran. The court found her guilty of “insulting members of [P]arliament through paintings” and “insulting the Iranian supreme leader.” The court also charged her with “‘gathering and colluding with anti-revolutionary individuals and deviant sects’ because she mingled with relatives of political prisoners and members of Baha’i faith during an exhibit of her paintings of protesters killed by the Iranian government.” The paintings concentrated on the protesters killed during the 2009 election.
Farghadani spent nine months in prison awaiting trial. Amnesty International demanded the government release her, arguing that she did not commit a crime. In August 2014, the police burst into her home, “confiscated her belongings, blindfolded her and took her to Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison.” She stayed there until November:
While in prison last year, Atena flattened paper cups to use them as a surface to paint on. When the prison guards realised what she had been doing, they confiscated her paintings and stopped giving her paper cups. When Atena found some cups in the bathroom, she smuggled them into her cell. Soon after, she was beaten by prison guards, when she refused to strip naked for a full body search. Atena says that they knew about her taking the cups because they had installed cameras in the toilet and bathroom facilities – cameras detainees had been told were not operating.
She describes the treatment in this YouTube video:
A source told FOX News the system could only imprison her for seven years and six months. They will appeal her sentence.
“Naturally we are all upset by the sentence,” explained one relative. “But seeing how optimistic Atena has been, we are trying to maintain that outlook, too.”
In January, she went on a hunger strike, which complicated her health. Her lawyer claimed she suffered a heart attack in February.
“Atena is a prisoner of conscience – she has committed no real crime,” stated Amnesty. “She is being unfairly punished simply for exercising her right to free speech, association and assembly. We’ve been calling on Iran’s Supreme Leader and Head of the Judiciary to release Atena immediately. If not, we’ll continue to fight for her freedom.”