An Iranian soccer player has been banned for six months from playing for Iran's national team after photos surfaced online last month showing him wearing yellow "SpongeBob pants," according to the Iranian Students' News Agency.
The images show Sosha Makani, a former goalkeeper for Iran's Persepolis Football Club, wearing a blue shirt and tight yellow dotted trousers that Iranian media described as resembling the SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon character.
The Iranian football federation's morality committee cited Makani's clothing as "inappropriate" and the cause for his suspension. However, the decision isn't final, and Makani can appeal through an Appeals Committee.
This isn't the first time that the 29-year-old has gotten in trouble for his social media presence. In January, Makani was arrested and sent to Evin prison after photographs of him with various women appeared on social media.
Here are the pictures in question found on this blog.
Iranian legal expert Hossein Raeesi told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the reason for his arrest has to do with Iran's cybercrime laws:
“The law regarding Internet crimes says if someone directly posts indecent photos of himself or others online, then a crime has been committed. But given his lawyer’s statements [regarding the hacking of Makani’s account] and the fact that he is a famous person, I doubt he posted the photos himself."
According to Article 17 of Iran's cybercrime law:
“Any person who publishes private or family photos or videos of others through the Internet without their permission, in such a way that causes them harm or disrepute, will be punishable from 91 days to two years in prison or fined from five million rials [about $168] to 40 million rials [about $1,340] or both.”
Over the last few months, an increasing number of Iranians have gotten in trouble for their online presence. Celebrities and well-known athletes are often the targets. Tehran's prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi, warned athletes and artists in January against posting "anti-Islamic" images on social media.
It seems his warnings were legitimate. Just a few weeks ago, hard-liners criticized a popular Iranian actress, whose most recent movie won two awards at the Cannes Film Festival, after images of her appeared to show a feminist tattoo on her arm. And in May, Iranian models were arrested for posting pictures of themselves on Instagram without headscarves. The arrests were part of a sting operation, which Iranian officials code-named "Spider 2," aimed at people in the fashion industry.
Some activists and analysts say this crackdown has a lot to do with hard-liners in government who want to reassert their influence after moderates and reformists united to win a majority of seats in Iran's parliamentary elections in February.
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