Iran Soccer Stars Face Public Lashing After Celebratory Butt-Grope

Nov 3, 2011 3:54pm
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Two Iranian soccer players who engaged in "inappropriate" celebratory behavior during a game may face public lashings. (Youtube)

In a matter of seconds, a victory celebration of a game-winning soccer goal turned into a crime punishable by a public lashing for two Iranian soccer stars.

Mohammad Nosrati and Sheys Rezaei, who played with the Tehran club “Persepolis,”  jumped on a pile of their teammates following the goal Saturday at the Sardar Jangal Stadium in Rasht, a town to the northwest of Tehran. But then the players engaged in what Iranian authorities called  “immoral acts,” as Nosrati groped Rezaei’s butt as Rezaei balanced in the air.

Now, members of parliament, sports officials and judges have called for punishment for Nosrati and Rezaei, according to the Fars News Agency.

Iran’s football federation  suspended both players and fined them nearly $40,000 each, Fars reported. But public officials have tried to take it further, calling for the players to end their careers forever.

A judiciary official told Fars that Nosrati and Rezaei could also face public lashings, to be carried out on the soccer field where the behavior occurred.

According to an Iranian judge, the offending action “can be considered a violation of public chastity,” the news agency reported. “The punishment of this crime is prison up to two months and 74 lashes.”

However, Hadi Ghaemi, director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, told ABC News that the players would likely only be fined. The head coach and members of the international team defended the players, whom Ghaemi said were joking with one another in what has become a common gesture among players.

Ghaemi said there is no law in the Iranian penal code that suggests lashings for the specific crime of men groping one another’s butts. However, if the crime was deemed “inappropriate behavior,” akin to “what boyfriends and girlfriends do,” then lashings could be ordered.

Many Muslim countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia  and Sudan, still allow crimes to be punished by such measures as lashing with bamboo rods and stoning criminals.

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