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American-Iranian And Wife Charged With Serving Alcohol

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An American-Iranian citizen and his wife living in Tehran, who were jailed last summer have been formally charged, according to a statement from prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi on Monday. Another couple was also given the death penalty for starting and operating a "cult," the Tehran prosecutor added.

The American-Iranian and his wife were convicted of hosting "mixed parties" -- parties where men and women can freely interact --  and providing attendees with alcohol.

Though the prosecutor didn't use any names, the couple singled out as an American citizen and his wife are thought to be high-profile art gallery owners from Tehran. They were known to regularly host foreign diplomats, high-level dignitaries, and the city's elite before their arrest last summer.

The prosecutor stated that just over a thousand gallons of alcohol had been found in the basement of their gallery.

The charge "is related to a woman and man who provided alcoholic drinks and encouraged corruption and debauchery by holding mixed parties," said Dolatabadi.

In Iran, the production, consumption, and sale of alcohol is strictly prohibited. In Iran, a Muslim republic, government law are in line with that of Islam's laws, and anyone caught breaking those laws faces a severe punishment.

But there are some exceptions for religious minorities in Iran. Jews, Christians, and others -- like the Zoroastrians, an ancient monotheistic religion whose members are primarily found inside Iran -- are allowed to own and consume alcohol for private use. But sharing alcohol with Muslims is a severe offense.

The couple are known to be members of the Zoroastrian religion.

The separate case of the Iranian couple sentenced to death for starting and operating a cult, was also covered in Dolatabadi's statement. The couple was charged because "by founding a cult and attracting individuals, [the couple] were active in sexual deviation."

The couple was convicted for "corruption on Earth", a charge introduced after the 1979 revolution, and carries the death penalty, according to the AFP.

While Iran's moderate president Hassan Rouhani has sought to improve ties between his country and the West through compromises on Iran's nuclear program, Iran continues to be a strictly conservative Islamic republic that continually jails many Iranian dual nationals under opaque espionage laws.

Rouhani has pushed for expatriate Iranians to return to the country to help rebuild the economy, and has attempted to introduce more social and political freedoms to entice citizens to return, but much of the power in the country still rests in the hands of the conservative Islamic movement.

Sources: The Tower, AFP via Middle East Eye / Photo Credit: AFP via Middle East Eye

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