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Lawyer says award-winning Iran filmmaker summoned to prison

TEHRAN – An Iranian filmmaker who just won the Berlin Film Festival's Golden Bear has been summoned to serve a one-year prison sentence over his movies, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Mohammad Rasoulof's sentence came from three films he made that authorities found to be “propaganda against the system," his lawyer Nasser Zarafshan told The Associated Press. Rasoulof's sentence also included an order than he stop his filmmaking for two years as well, the lawyer said.

The filmmaker received the order via a text message from the judiciary, Zarafshan said. Rasoulof will not turn himself into authorities and will appeal the order, especially given the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in Iran, the lawyer said. Authorities already sent 54,000 prisoners on temporary furlough over concerns about the virus spreading through the country's prison system.

There was no immediate state media report about Rasoulof's summons, nor any comment from judiciary officials.

Rasoulof just won the Berlin Film Festival's top prize for his film “There Is No Evil.” The film tells four stories loosely connected to the use of the death penalty in Iran and dealing with personal freedom under tyranny.

Rasoulof wasn't there to accept the award Saturday due to a travel ban imposed on him by Iranian authorities.

Organizers left an empty chair and name sign for Rasoulof at the news conference for his entry. Germany's dpa news agency reported that Rasoulof's daughter, Baran, accepted the Golden Bear award on his behalf.

Rasoulf has faced problems before for his work in Iran. In 2011, Rasoulof and fellow director Jafar Panahi were arrested in Iran for filming without a permit. The pair received six years in prison and were banned from filmmaking for 20 years on charges that included "making propaganda" against the ruling system, but Rasoulof's sentence was later reduced to a year on appeal.

His film "Goodbye" won a prize at Cannes in 2011, but the director wasn't allowed to travel to France to accept it.