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Ghoncheh Ghavami
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/Free Ghoncheh Campaign

British-Iranian volleyball woman freed

November 23, 2014

The family of a British-Iranian woman jailed after watching a men's volleyball match in Tehran says she has been released on bail. Ghoncheh Ghavami had been in prison since her arrest in June.


Ghavami, a 25-year-old law graduate from London, was released on bail pending a decision by the Court of Appeal on her sentence, according to media reports on Sunday.

Her brother, Iman Ghavami, told news agency AFP she had been freed "just a couple of hours ago and she will stay with my parents" in Tehran.

However, he said there was a chance she could return to jail, as the court was still to decide how she should serve out her full sentence.

"It was unexpected that she was released, it was out of the blue," Iman Ghavami said.

Ghoncheh Ghavami was first arrested at the Azadi or "Freedom" Stadium in Iran's capital on June 20, while attempting to watch a men's volleyball match between Iran and Italy.

According to human rights organization Amnesty International, Ghavami tried to enter the stadium with around a dozen other women to protest against the law banning women from attending male-only matches.

She was released after just a few hours, but was re-arrested days later. According to her family, Ghavami spent at least 41 days in solitary confinement at Tehran's Evin prison before going on trial in late October. She also staged a two-week hunger strike during her detention.

On November 2, Ghavami's lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, said he had been shown a draft of the verdict stating Ghavami had been sentenced to one year in prison after being found guilty of "propagating against the ruling system." However, no verdict or sentence was issued.

Ghavami's brother told AFP that the verdict had been handed down just a few days ago, and that she had been sentenced to one year, as well as two years of "travel restrictions."

On Wednesday, the judiciary issued a statement cited by Iranian news agency ISNA saying Ghavami had been detained because of her links to the opposition, not for attending the volleyball match.

Ghavami's arrest was "not linked to her presence at a stadium where she wanted to watch a volleyball match," the statement said. "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."

nm/msh (AFP, AP)

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