Iran sentences Canadian filmmaker to eight years in jail

Toronto-based filmmaker convicted of ‘gathering and collusion against national security’

The Evin prison in Tehran.  (Ulrich Baumgarten/Getty Images)

The Evin prison in Tehran. (Ulrich Baumgarten/Getty Images)

Mostafa Azizi, a Toronto-based filmmaker and television producer, has been sentenced in Iran to eight years in prison.

Azizi, a Canadian permanent resident, was arrested while on a return visit to Iran in January. Today, he was convicted of “gathering and collusion against national security,” insulting Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and “acting against national security in cyberspace,” according to his son, Arash.

Sentences for different charges are often served concurrently in Iran, says Arash, meaning that, even if Azizi loses his appeal, he may serve only five years, the sentence he received for “gathering and collusion.”

Arash says the charges are related to posts his father made on social media, but he says he can’t know exactly what provoked the arrest.

“My dad was active in Canada as a citizen and an artist. He attended the [gay] Pride rallies. He went to all kinds of demos. In fact, he went to demos in support of Palestinian people’s rights. I don’t know which ones are the basis of their accusations.”

Some of the causes Azizi supported were specific to Iran, says Arash. He signed petitions in support of people unjustly imprisoned there. He advocated for Iranian workers’ rights.

“But he was mostly active in a lot of cultural activities, which is the bulk of his work,” says Arash. “And, as an intellectual worker, a cultural worker, you obviously pass assessment of your society and its situation in the language of arts.”

Arash spoke to his father today and says his morale is good. “He jokes that he’s the one who’s consoling everyone.”

But conditions in Azizi’s ward in Tehran’s Evin Prison are crowded and dirty. Azizi has no bed, sleeping instead on a mattress in a corridor. The ward has lost gas, so prisoners lack hot water and can’t cook.

Azizi’s imprisonment is also hard on his family, says Arash, especially Azizi’s parents, who live in Iran.

“They thought this was their eldest son coming back, and he’s going to take care of them, and he’s going to be there. And now he’s in jail and they have to visit him.”

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