Iranian Artist on Trial for Political Cartoon

The Iranian artist Atena Farghadani has gone on trial facing charges of spreading propaganda, insulting MPs, and insulting the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, after she published a cartoon on Facebook last year depicting lawmakers as animals, the BBC reports.

If found guilty the 28-year-old political activist could face years behind bars as well as lashes.

The cartoon criticized a proposed law that would change Iran’s family planning legislation by prohibiting vasectomies for men, ending voluntary sterilization for women, and restricting access to contraception.

The law attracted criticism both nationally and internationally from Amnesty, feminists, and women’s groups who warned that outlawing basic contraception and family-planning choices could force women to seek unsafe abortions.

Farghadani was taken in for questioning in August last year. Following her release she was apprehended again after she posted an online video in which she alleged that prison guards had beaten her.

The Washington Post reported that she has been held in solitary confinement since January. In February she suffered a heart attack and had to spend several months in hospital.

Amnesty International’s Iran researcher Raha Bahreini told the BBC“We are very concerned that Atena has even been put on trial. She is a prisoner of conscience and she has been held solely because of her opinions and for exercising the right to free expression. From our point of view, she must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

Farghadani is only one of several cartoonists who have faced legal problems for expressing their points of view. In March Turkish cartoonists were fined for portraying the president as gay.

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