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Iranian Actress Leila Hatami 'Facing Flogging & Jail' Over Cannes Festival Kiss

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An Iranian actress who angered authorities in Tehran by pecking the Cannes film festival's president on the cheek is now facing calls to be flogged and jailed.

Leila Hatami was photographed kissing Gilles Jacob at the opening of this year's festival, on which she is a member of the jury, AFP writes.

"Those who attend intentional events should take heed of the credibility and chastity of Iranians, so that a bad image of Iranian women will not be demonstrated to the world," Iran's Deputy Culture Minister Hossein Noushabadi said, quoted by the website of state broadcaster IRIB.

leila hatami kiss

Leila Hatami was photographed kissing Gilles Jacob at the Cannes Film Festival

"Iranian woman is the symbol of chastity and innocence," he said.

Hatami's "inappropriate presence" at the festival was "not in line with our religious beliefs", he added.

Hatami played the lead female role in A Separation, which won an Oscar for best foreign film in 2012.

The award winning actress has now been targeted by the hardline Baseej militia, which has reportedly started criminal proceedings against her.

leila hatami

Hatami starred in the 2012 Oscar-winning film A Separation

Fifty women from the group, who dub themselves the "Hezbollah sisters" have demanded Hatami be punished with 74 lashes and up to ten years in jail for "harming public chastity", The Times writes.

The newspaper cites an open letter from the group as saying: "Because Leila Hatami is a well-known actress and has knowingly and deliberately taken part in the forbidden act of kissing an unrelated man and appeared in unIslamic dress in public, she is legitimising such behaviour."

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Hatami is currently in France but lives in Tehran with her actor husband Ali Mosaffa.

Following the outcry, Jacob took to Twitter to say: "It's me that kissed Mademoiselle Hatami. At that moment she represented all Iranian cinema, then she became herself again.

"This controversy based on usual custom in the West is therefore not relevant."

Sebastian Usher, the BBC's World Service Editor said Hatami was wearing a scarf around her head but her neck was uncovered.

Both her dress and the kiss "are unacceptable in the Islamic Republic of Iran," he explained.

Under Islamic law, wearing the hijab has been compulsory since the 1979 Revolution and the lack of it is punishable by fines, imprisonment or lashes. Additionally, a woman is not allowed to have physical contact with a man outside her family.

The matter comes as six young Iranians were arrested for re-enacting the Pharrell Williams hit Happy and posting it online.

The incident was branded "a vulgar clip which hurt public chastity" by Tehran police chief Hossein Sajedinia.

The outcry prompted public sympathy from Williams and even saw Iranian President Hassan Rouhani seemingly wade into the debate.

On Wednesday a Twitter account operated by Rouhani’s aides tweeted: "#Happiness is our people's right. We shouldn't be too hard on behaviors caused by joy." 29/6/2013