Rights groups: Iranian poets face lashes for shaking hands with opposite sex

Fatemeh Ekhtesari, left, and Mehdi Musavi are pictured in an undated photo made available by International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

Story highlights

  • The two poets' convictions are "a travesty of justice," according to PEN American Center
  • Filmmaker, TV producer and cartoonist have also received harsh legal treatment, it says

(CNN)Two Iranian poets are facing 99 lashes each for shaking hands with people of the opposite sex in one of the latest examples of harsh punishments meted out against writers and artists by Iran's judiciary, according to human rights advocates.

The poets, Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Musavi, have also both been sentenced to years in prison for "insulting the sacred" in their writings, a decision slammed by freedom of expression activists.
"Ekhtesari and Musavi's arrests and convictions are a travesty of justice, and send a chill over the already beleaguered creative community in Iran," Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of Free Expression Programs at PEN American Center, said in a statement earlier this mont