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Iran Culture Official Jailed

October 2, 2002

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ A cultural official has been arrested for allowing an Iranian actress and the young actor she publicly kissed on the cheek walk away free, in violation of strict Islamic laws, Iranian media reported Wednesday.

Socializing between unrelated men and women is banned by Iran’s Islamic laws, and public kissing between men and women is considered taboo.

Mohammad Ali Pakdel, a cultural official in Yazd in central Iran, was jailed Tuesday, the daily Etemad reported. He was later released on $6,250 bail.

Pakdel was accused of failing to act on an arrest order issued after actress Gowhar Kheirandish and actor Ali Zamani shook hands and kissed on the cheek during a public festival in Yazd.

Pakdel denied the accusation, saying the judicial order was issued after the pair had already left Yazd, Etemad reported.

Iranian filmmakers and other artists warned the arrest would harm Iran’s improving international image.

Filmmaker Abolfazl Jalili said Wednesday that Kheirandish, who is in her 50s, became emotional and kissed Zamani after meeting him.

Zamani, in his 20s, was a student of Kheirandish’s late husband, Jamshid Esmaeilkhani, a well-known actor who died earlier this year.

``For Kheirandish, Zamani was like her son and there was definitely no other intention. Judicial action only harms Iran’s improving international image,″ Jalili said.

Actor Iraj Rad said he was ``shocked″ to hear arrest warrants had been issued for Kheirandish and Zamani.

``Kheirandish is one of the best actresses and a respectable lady. I’m really shocked to hear the news,″ he said.

It was not clear if the arrest warrants against the two actors still stand. Kheirandish and Zamani could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

On Monday, Mohsen Talebpour, who represents Iran’s hard-line supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, organized a public protest in Yazd to condemn the public kiss, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

``The enemy today has come to fight our values ... we want authorities to follow up this case to the end,″ IRNA quoted Talebpour as saying.

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