TEHRAN, May 23 (UPI) -- Iranian actress Leila Hatami should be publicly flogged for kissing Cannes Film Festival president Gilles Jacob on the cheek, the Hizbullah Students organization argued in a petition to Iran's judiciary.
The petition by the Hizbullah Students, a university group associated with Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, cited the kiss was in violation of article 638 of the Islamic Criminal Justice code.
"We, the undersigned, who are a group of student Muslim brothers and sisters, ask the cultural and media branch of the judiciary to prosecute Leyla Hatami for her sinful act of kissing a strange man in public, which according to article 638 of Islamic Criminal Justice carries a prison sentence ...
"Furthermore, the action of this film star has hurt the religious sentiments of the proud and martyrs breeding nation of Iran and as such we also demand the punishment of flogging for her as stipulated in the law."
Iran's deputy Minister of Culture Hossein Nushabadi weighed in on the kiss, deeming it "in violation of religious beliefs" because the "Iranian woman is the symbol of chastity in innocence."
The peck on the cheek occurred as Hatami, star of the Oscar-winning A Separation, made her way down the red carpet at the international film festival.
Festival president Jacob downplayed the kiss, calling it "a usual custom in the West." He insisted that he was not kissing her because she is a woman, but instead, "At that moment, for me she represented all Iranian cinema, then she became herself again."
In Iranian culture, men and women who are unrelated cannot embrace in public.