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Brother's shock at woman's jailing

The brother of an Iranian-British woman has spoken of his shock at her jailing for trying to attend a men's volleyball game.

Iman Ghavami, 28, said his family were expecting his 25-year-old sister Ghoncheh to be released by the Iranian authorities but instead she received a 12-month prison sentence.

Ms Ghavami was found guilty last month of "propagating against the ruling system" and received the custodial sentence, her lawyer Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei said.

The Iranian authorities have not officially released details of the court's verdict.

Human rights activists branded the sentencing "appalling" and said she was a "prisoner of conscience" and called for her immediate release.

Mr Ghavami told the Press Association that his family was desperately trying to confirm the jail sentence.

"We are really shocked because we were really hoping she would get the sentence as time served," he said.

"We actually felt she would be released on time served or at least get released immediately on bail three weeks ago but that hasn't happened.

"They are still delaying the verdict and we don't understand why they are doing that after 127 days.

"The judge has told our lawyer that the sentence is one full year and two years of prohibition from leaving the country."

Mr Ghavami said his parents were in Iran meeting officials to try and get his sister released.

"There is a huge amount of abnormality in this case really. We are in constant contact with the Foreign Office," he said.

"The next step is to make sure the sentence is what it is and whether the court is going to apply any leniency.

"When we are sure and the verdict is official we will take it from there."

Mr Ghavami said his sister was being held in solitary confinement and his family at least wanted her moved from there.

"The Evin Prison is notorious and the section she is in is the most horrific part of the prison," he added.

Ms Ghavami, a graduate of the University of London's School of African and Oriental Studies, was detained in June at a Tehran stadium after trying to attend a men's volleyball match between Iran and Italy.

She was held for a few hours and then released but she was detained again a few days later. She stood trial last month.

On October 1 Ms Ghavami went on 'wet' hunger strike - refusing all food but taking liquid - for 14 days, in protest at the conditions of her detention. She ended the hunger strike on October 14.

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

Ms Ghavami, from Shepherd's Bush in west London, was taking part in a protest against a ban on women in Iran attending sporting events in the company of men in public stadiums.

Amnesty International has described Ms Ghavami as a prisoner of conscience, and called for her immediate release.

More than 700,000 people have signed an online petition urging the authorities to free her.

UK director Kate Allen said: "This is an appalling verdict.

"It's an outrage that a young woman is being locked up simply for peacefully having her say about how women are discriminated against in Iran.

"Ghoncheh is a prisoner of conscience and the Iranian authorities should quash the sentence and release her immediately and unconditionally.

"The authorities should also investigate allegations that Ghoncheh was subjected to death threats by her interrogators and provide compensation for her arbitrary detention and her prolonged solitary confinement."

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said: "We are concerned about reports that Ghoncheh Ghavami has been sentenced to 12 months in prison for 'propaganda against the state'.

"We have concerns about the grounds for this prosecution, due process during the trial and Miss Ghavami's treatment whilst in custody."

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