Iran urged to revoke travel ban on woman pardoned over volleyball jailing

Ghoncheh Ghavami was sentenced to year after trying to watch men's game; Brit-Iranian was pardoned but remains in Tehran

A travel ban imposed by Tehran on a British-Iranian woman who spent five months behind bars after attempting to watch a men’s volleyball game should be revoked now that she has been pardoned, the U.K. government said Thursday.

A spokeswoman from Britain’s Foreign Office confirmed that Ghoncheh Ghavami, 26, remained in Tehran with her parents despite being freed earlier this week from a city prison, where she had been serving one-year sentence for spreading anti-state propaganda.

“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,” the spokeswoman said. “We are following the case closely and remain in touch with her family.”

Although Ghavami has dual nationality, Iran does not recognize foreign passports held by its citizens. And despite Britain maintaining direct diplomatic contact with Iran, it does not have a permanent diplomatic presence in Tehran following an incident in 2011 in which protesters stormed the British embassy.

When or if Ghavami can leave Iran remains unknown.

Her brother, Iman, issued a statement on a Facebook page dedicated to the campaign to free his sister, marking her release.

“[The] Iranian Government wiped out the rest of my sister's sentence. Ghoncheh will not have to spend another day, another hour in prison ... The uncertainty of autumn and the dark clouds of winter have gone. And the sun once again is shining for my family. Spring is here,” the statement read.

Ghavami, a law graduate from the University of London, was arrested over a week after she tried to enter Tehran's Azadi [Freedom] Stadium to watch a volleyball match between Iran and Italy.

While there have been reports that she was part of a protest outside the stadium, Iman Ghavami told Al Jazeera in September that his sister believed she would be allowed to watch the match when she tried to enter the stadium. He said she was “confused” about why she had been arrested.

Ghavami was initially taken in for questioning on June 20, then released, detained and released again the next day before finally being arrested on June 29, when the family home was also raided and several items confiscated.

She was released on bail on Nov. 23, shortly after her sentencing. At the time, Iranian media reported that Ghavami had “a prior history of arrests” in Iran. It was also reported that investigations had revealed Ghavami's ties to overseas opposition groups as well as the BBC, which is banned in Iran.

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

However, Iranian women would remain banned from the matches.

With Reuters

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