An Actress Escapes The Lash (Barely)

A woman takes part in a Voodoo ritual during Day of the Dead celebrations at the national cemetery in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2009.
AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa
A famous Iranian actress confirmed Wednesday that a court in central Iran had sentenced her to 74 suspended lashes for publicly kissing a young actor on the cheek last year.

"I've been sentenced to 74 suspended lashes. Unfortunately, the court had made its verdict available to the media before I was personally informed of the ruling," Gowhar Kheirandish told The Associated Press.

At a public festival in the city of Yazd last September, Kheirandish shook hands and kissed young actor Ali Zamani on the cheek, provoking organized protests.

Iran's strict Islamic laws ban socializing between unrelated men and women. Public kissing between men and women is considered un-Islamic and taboo.

Earlier this week, Yazd's public court found Kheirandish guilty and sentenced her. The verdict means that she will be lashed 74 times if the offense is repeated.

It was not clear if Zamani would be punished. Judiciary officials were not available for comment Wednesday.

"What happened was an emotional, motherly gesture. I having nothing more to add," a defiant Kheirandish said.

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

Kheirandish, a respected actress in her 50s, did not say if she would protest the verdict.

Artists warned that the punishment would harm Iran's improving international image.

"It's disgusting, ridiculous," filmmaker Kioumars Pourahmad said. "Kheirandish, who was still mourning the loss of her husband, kissed Esmaeilkhani's student who was like her son. Such verdicts only create hatred and further harm Iran's international image."