Iran punishes actress for kissing director

Duo will be lashed if offense repeated

LONDON — Iranian actress Gohar Kheirandish has been given a suspended sentence of 74 lashes for kissing a director during an Iranian film awards ceremony in the central city of Yazd last November.

The veteran actress kissed helmer Ali Zamani on the forehead when presenting him with the director prize. Hot prospect Zamani had been a student of Kheirandish’s late husband.

Physical contact between unmarried and unrelated men and women is banned in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and authorities made an example of Kheirandish.

Mohsen Talebpour, the local representative of leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, organized protests against the pair and called for legal action. Conservative papers condemned the pair: “Our enemies are trying to harm Islam through our culture and this event is an example of that fact,” said an editorial in the Ya Lessarat weekly.

At their trial, Zamani leapt to Kheirandish’s defense, insisting the actress “kissed me like a mother kisses a child.” Kheirandish and Zamani apologized for the “spontaneous gesture” and will only be lashed if they repeat the offense.

Iranian cinema has received acclaim in recent years at international fests and done stellar box office biz on limited releases in the West, but remains subject to oppressive censorship laws at home.

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