Iran Pardons Ghoncheh Ghavami, British-Iranian Woman Jailed For Volleyball Protest

04/02/2015 09:41 am ET | Updated Apr 02, 2015

LONDON, April 2 (Reuters) - An Iranian-British woman, jailed in Tehran last year for taking part in a protest against a ban on women attending some men's sporting events, has been pardoned, Britain's Foreign Office said on Thursday.

Ghoncheh Ghavami was arrested last June outside Tehran's Azadi Stadium where she and others were demanding that women be allowed in to watch a volleyball match between Iran and Italy.

A Tehran court sentenced her to a year in jail last November for spreading anti-state propaganda, according to Iranian media, but she was freed on bail three weeks later pending a decision by the Court of Appeal.

"We welcome the news that Ghoncheh Ghavami has been pardoned by the Court of Appeal in Iran, although we are concerned that she is still subject to a travel ban," a British Foreign Office spokeswoman said. "We are following the case closely and remain in touch with her family."

A Twitter account in the name of Ghavami's brother Iman and a Facebook page named "Free Ghoncheh Ghavami" both reported on Tuesday that the charges against her had been dropped.

"Ghoncheh will not have to spend another day, another hour in prison ... The uncertainty of autumn and the dark winter clouds have gone. And the sun once again is shining for my family," a post by Iman Ghavami on the Facebook site said.

Britain has no permanent diplomatic presence in Iran, although it has said it plans to reopen its embassy soon and has direct contact with Tehran about consular matters.

Ghavami, who was reported to be staying with her parents in the Iranian capital while she awaited the court's decision, had gone on a hunger strike during her incarceration to protest against what she said was her unjust jailing.

In January, Iran said it would allow foreign women to watch men play volleyball when it hosts the 2015 Asian Men's Volleyball Championship in August.

However, the authorities, who bar women from watching men playing sports such as volleyball and football under its Islamic law, said Iranian women would still be banned. (Reporting by Michael Holden; Additional reporting by Sam Wilkin in Dubai; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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