Prisoner of conscience Atena Faraghdani and her lawyer, Mohammad Moghimi, have been acquitted of “illegitimate relations” for shaking hands during a prison visit. 

“My daughter was mentally crushed by this accusation but she’s very happy since she heard about the acquittal,” Atena Faraghdani’s mother, Eshrat Ardestani, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. The written decision was sent to Mohammad Moghimi on January 16, 2016.

Faraghdani, who is in Evin Prison awaiting a decision by the Appeals Court on her 12-year prison sentence for drawings she posted on Facebook, and Moghimi were charged with “illegitimate relations” after they shook hands in front of two prison guards at a meeting to discuss her case on June 13, 2015. Under the Islamic Republic’s laws, it is illegal for the opposite sexes to touch unless they are related. Moghimi was held in prison for four days for that handshake and released on bail.

After a closed-court trial in Branch 1166 of the Criminal Court on October 3, 2015, Judge Majid Sharifzad ruled that neither had broken the law.

A recipient of the Cartoonists Rights Network International’s 2015 Courage in Cartooning Award,  Faraghdani has been sentenced to 12 years and nine months in prison for a  drawing she posted on Facebook showing members of the legislature with animal heads. She was expressing her criticism of a bill outlawing voluntary sterilization and restricting access to birth control.

She was sentenced by Judge Salavati of Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court on January 10, 2015, for “assembly and collusion against national security,” “propaganda against the state,” and “insulting the Supreme Leader, the President, Members of the Parliament, and the IRGC [Revolutionary Guards] Ward 2-A agents” who interrogated her.

“The Appeals Court heard my daughter’s case on December 20, [2015,] and we are waiting for the decision. I beg the judicial officials to decide quickly. It took seven months for the Appeals Court to hear this case and now it has been almost a month and they still haven’t issued a verdict. This long indecision is harming the prisoner and her family,” Faraghdani’s mother told the Campaign.