PEN International has learned that prominent filmmaker Keyvan Karimi’s appeal sentence against his sentence of six years’ imprisonment and 223 lashes will be heard on 23 December 2015, along with poets and lyricists Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Moosavi (see Update #3 of RAN 01/14. If his appeal is upheld, he is likely to be imprisoned shortly afterwards. Karimi was sentenced on 13 October 2015 by Branch 28 of Tehran Revolutionary Court for ‘insulting the holy sanctities’, ‘spreading propaganda against the system’ and ‘illegitimate relations’. PEN International calls on the Iranian authorities to accept his appeal and overturn his conviction and sentence. PEN also concerned at the flogging sentence, as it violates the absolute prohibition in international law against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment.

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Background Information

Keywan Karimi, a member of Iran’s Kurdish minority, is a prominent documentary and fiction filmmaker. His documentary Marz-e Shekasteh (The Broken Border) was awarded as best short documentary in Beirut International Film Festival in 2013. This documentary portrayed the poor conditions of the Kurdish population near the Iranian border. His film Zendegi-ye Zan va Shohar (The Adventure of a Married Couple) was presented at San Sebastian, Freiburg and Zurich Film Festivals. The film, adapted from a story by Italian writer Italo Calvino, tackles the challenges of a working-class couple.

Karimi was arrested on 14 December 2013 and released on bail after 12 days in solitary confinement during which he was accused of insulting the regime after a music clip and documentary were found on his hard drive, even though they had never been screened or shared online. The music clip, which had never been finalized or shown, was made for exiled Iranian singer Shahin Najafi, and  believes this video, which the authorities had learned about from other sources, led to his arrest. Later, he was accused of ‘spreading propaganda against the system’ in connection with his 2012 film Neveshtan Rooy-e Shahr (Writing on the City) which has never been shown in public, apart from a trailer on YouTube. Karimi describes the film as containing ‘graffiti and wall painting that date back to 100 years ago in Tehran. It is story of a wall and how it reflects what happened in society’.

On 13 October 2015, after six trial sessions, he was sentenced by the Branch 28 of Tehran Revolutionary Court for ‘insulting the holy sanctities’, ‘spreading propaganda against the system’ and ‘illegitimate relations’. Human rights organizations fear that he has been prosecuted because of some of the graffiti shown were connected to the unrest in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 presidential election. The charge of ‘illegitimate relations’ was brought because he shook hands with a woman he was not related to.

Karimi’s lawyer, Amir Raeisian, has highlighted irregularities in the trial, pointing out that at the final session, the judge was reading from a verdict, even though the verdict should have been issued after the trial. This was corroborated by the date on the verdict when he received it, June 22, 2015, which pre-dated the final trial session on 22 September 2015. Raeisian has also pointed out that according to article 134 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, an individual who faces multiple charges should not be sentenced to the heaviest penalty in more than one of the charges, whereas Karimi has been given the maximum sentence for both charges.

In December 2015, more than 135 Iranian filmmakers released a letter calling on the judiciary to acquit Karimi.

For further information, please contact Ann Harrison, Director of the Freedom to Write Programme at PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK, Tel.: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, Email: [email protected]


Write A Letter

Please send appeals:

  • Expressing concern at the conviction and harsh sentence imposed on filmmaker Keywan Karimi and calling on the Iranian  authorities to  overturn his conviction at his appeal hearing on 23 December 2015;
  • Expressing concern at his flogging sentence,  violates the absolute prohibition in international law against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
  • Calling also for the immediate and unconditional release of all other writers and journalists currently detained in Iran in connection with their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression, in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party.

Send Your Letter To

Leader of the Islamic Republic
Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic Street — End of Shahid Keshvar Doust Street,
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Twitter: @khamenei_ir English-language account), @Khamenei_ar (Arabic-language), @Khamenei_es (Spanish-language account).

Head of the Judiciary
Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani
c/o Public Relations Office
Number 4, 2 Azizi Street intersection
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Hassan Rouhani
Pasteur Street, Pasteur Square
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @HassanRouhani (English) and @Rouhani_ir (Persian)

And copy to the Embassy of Iran in your country. You can find embassy addresses here.

Please also contact your own Foreign Ministry, asking them to raise the case with their Iranian counterparts.  Centres in European Union Countries are also asked to urge their Foreign Ministries to ensure that his case is raised by the European Union.

***Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after 23 December 2015. ***

Please inform PEN of any action you take, and of any responses you receive