Iranian actress Leila Hatami who was photographed kissing the president of the 67th Cannes Film Festival on the cheek could face public flogging for violating Islamic law.

A picture published by Iranian media shows the 41-year-old actress shaking hands with the 83-year-old Gilles Jacob and receiving a quick peck on the cheek.

According to Islamic Sharia law, a woman may not have physical contact with a man not in her family.

Iran's Deputy Culture Minister Hossein Noushabadi had criticised Hatami's act at the Cannes Festival, saying it undermined the image of chastity.

Jacob had tried to justify this behaviour explaining that it was "a usual custom in the West."

"I kissed Mrs Hatami on the cheek. At that moment, for me she represented all Iranian cinema, then she became herself again," Jacob tweeted. "This controversy over a usual custom in the West has therefore no reason to be."

According to a report in Telegraph, Hizbullah Students, a group of students with links to Iran's Revolutionary Guard – called for Hatami to be prosecuted.

According to the Tasnim news website, the Hizbullah Students organisation has filed a complaint with the judiciary demanding that Hatami be punished. If convicted, she could face a maximum penalty of 50 lashes.

"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," the students wrote, as quoted by the Telegraph.

"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," the students continued.

Hatami was also criticised for not covering the crown of her head with a scarf.

Hatami, who is on the jury this year at the annual Cannes festival, received worldwide acclaim after she starred as the leading actress in Asghar Farhadi's Academy Award winning movie A Separation.