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Award-Winning Iranian Filmmaker 'Summoned To Prison'

Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof

An Iranian director who won last month the top prize at the Berlin Film Festival has been summoned to serve a 1-year prison sentence over his movies, his lawyer says.

Mohammad Rasoulof won the festival's Golden Bear for his film There Is No Evil, but was unable to accept the prize in person on February 29 due to a travel ban imposed on him by Iran’s authorities.

His lawyer said the 48-year-old filmmaker received an order via text message from the judiciary on March 4 to appear and start serving a 12-month prison sentence handed down last year.

The sentence came from films he made that authorities found to be “propaganda against the system,” said the lawyer, Nasser Zarafshan.

Zarafshan said his client would not turn himself into the authorities and would appeal the order, in part because of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran.

"There are clear orders from the judiciary that prisoners be given leave time, and sentences not be carried out for the current" Iranian year that ends in a few weeks, the lawyer said.

Zarafshan also said that a summons via "SMS has no legal basis."

Rasoulof, who was sentenced to a year in prison in 2017, is a prominent critic of the Iranian government and has been banned by the authorities from making films.

With reporting by AP and AFP