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Iran says jailed British woman had links to opposition

Iranian activist detained for having contacts with 'opposition abroad', say officials
Ghonceh Ghavami was detained in June after watching a volleyball match in Tehran (Twitter/@LotteLeicht1)

A British-Iranian woman detained in Tehran since June was arrested for having contacts with the “opposition based abroad”, not for attending a men’s volleyball match, a justice official said on Tuesday.

Ghoncheh Ghavami, 25, was sentenced to one year in jail for propaganda offences against the regime on 2 November, according to her lawyer.

The law graduate from London was detained outside a stadium in the capital where she had gone to watch a men’s volleyball match. She was released several hours later. But Gohavami was rearrested days later when she returned to a police station to reclaim confiscated personal belongings.

Ghavami’s family and supporters say she was held for trying to watch the match. The judiciary later denied the report of her sentencing and said the case remained under investigation.

This is the first time that the Tehran prosecutor’s office has brought an official charge publicly.

“After investigation, it seems she had participated in propaganda against the regime, had links with satellite TV channels, including BBC Persian, and the opposition based abroad and participated in demonstrations against the regime.”

Iran bars contact with Farsi-language media such as BBC Persian and Voice of America, which are seen as tools of Western imperialism.

Ghavami’s arrest “is not linked to her presence at a stadium where she wanted to watch a volleyball match,” the statement said.

The tougher sentencing may be the result of pressure from hardliners according to the Times, which reported that the case has become the centre of a struggle between warring factions in Tehran. While moderate groups have hoped to limit the damage caused by international outrage, hardliners have pressed for Ghavani to be charged with spying.

Spying could carry a lengthier sentence of up to six years.

Before Tuesday’s announcement by the Teheran prosecutor’s office, Amnesty International said “we’re worried that the courts’ reluctance to announce Ghavami's sentence means that they are planning to open a new case against her.”

In a statement The British Foreign Office raised concerns after Ghavami’s reported sentencing, questioning the “grounds for this prosecution, due process during the trial and Miss Ghavami’s treatment while in custody.”

Ghavami’s family members sad that at least 41 days before her trial were spent in solitary confinement.

The detained woman has twice gone on hunger strike since her arrest in June, in October and November, in protest against her detention.

According to a statement, the British Foreign Office most recently raised Ghavami’s case with the Iranian authorities on 11 November.

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