23 Nov 2014

British-Iranian woman freed after Iran volleyball jailing

Ghoncheh Ghavami, who was imprisoned for a year for trying to gain access to a volleyball match in Tehran, is freed on bail.

Ghoncheh Ghavami, an Iranian-British woman who was jailed for trying to attend a men’s volleyball game in Iran, has been released on bail.

Her brother, Iman Ghavami, said she had been bailed for £20,000, “and now wants to spend time with her family”.

“She has been bailed until her court appeal, when she hopes to be vindicated,” he added.

It was a very emotional moment, my mother couldn’t stop crying Ghoncheh Ghavami’s brother

Ms Ghavami, 25, was a graduate of the University of London School of African and Oriental Studies, and had been detained since 20 June when she tried to attend a men’s volleyball match between Iran and Italy in Tehran.

Iran banned women from volleyball games in 2012, extending a long-standing ban on football matches.

‘Very emotional moment’

Ms Ghavami, from Shepherd’s Bush in west London, was found guilty in October of “propagating against the ruling system” and was sentenced to a year in jail.

A post on a Facebook page set up by Ms Ghavami’s family said she had “returned home from prison”, adding: “We thank all of you that stayed with us and I hope the court accept the complete innocence of my daughter. Thank god.”

More than 728,000 people had signed an online petition asking for Ms Ghavami to be released.

In a statement emailed to reporters, Iman Ghavami said: “Few hours ago my sister was bailed out for her birthday on Monday.

“It is so good to be home. I finally heard her voice after 149 days. It was a very emotional moment. My mother couldn’t stop crying.

“But she is not free yet. Bail is not freedom.”

Hunger strike

“Yesterday the judge issued the verdict of one year imprisonment and two years prohibition from leaving Iran. Ghoncheh will soon defend her innocence again in the court of appeal,” the statement added.

“We hope she will be vindicated of all charges and be allowed to come back to the UK to continue her studies.”

Mr Ghavami said his sister’s health had worsened due to hunger strikes she carried out while in prison.

On October 1 she went on “wet” hunger strike fro 14 days, refusing all food but taking liquid, in protest at the conditions of her detention.Her family claimed she was kept in solitary confinement.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond raised her case with Iranian foreign affairs minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in September at talks at the United Nations in New York.