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British-Iranian woman gets a year in Tehran jail for trying to watch a volleyball match

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A 25-year-old British-Iranian woman has been sentenced to a year in prison in Iran for attempting to watch a men's volleyball match in the capital Tehran earlier this year.

Ghoncheh Ghavami, a law graduate from London, was arrested in June but only told in late September that she'd been charged with spreading 'propaganda against the regime'. It is illegal in Iran for women to attend football or volleyball matches.

Ghoncheh was arrested on 20th June at the Azadi stadium where the national volleyball team was scheduled to play Italy. She was released within a few hours, but rearrested days later, reportedly when officials discovered her dual citizenship. Her mother Susan, 49, was born in London and grew up in the UK before moving to Iran.

During her time in prison, Ghoncheh spent 41 days in solitary confinement and was denied contact with her lawyer. In early October, she went on hunger strike for two weeks to "highlight the injustice of her situation" while her family appealed to Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, to release her.

Ghoncheh Ghavami

Ghoncheh Ghavami and her mum, Susan

Her brother Iman started a petition on Change.org, where he stated she had been arrested due to a "misunderstanding" and at time of writing, had amassed over 710,000 signatures.

Speaking to the Guardian, Iman, 28, said the family were "shattered" by the guilty verdict and sentence, which was handed down during a private hearing on Saturday that the family was not allowed to attend.

“We are really disappointed because we felt she would get out on bail immediately. She’s been through a lot and now it’s a full-year sentence and she’s already served four months."

President Rouhani recently defended her detainment when questioned on CNN, saying Iran did not recognise her dual citizenship and that “the bottom line is our aim for the laws to be respected every step of the way.”

Amnesty International has previously said a guilty verdict would be an "outrage" while Britain's Foreign Office said: "We have concerns about the grounds for this prosecution, due process during the trial, and Miss Ghavami's treatment whilst in custody."

Images: Save Ghoncheh Ghavami

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