Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Iran prepares to release film-maker from Evin prison

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May 24, 2010

Iran prepares to release film-maker from Evin prison

The Iranian Government has indicated that it is preparing to release Jafar Panahi, the award-winning film-maker who has been jailed in Tehran since early March.

Last week, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Court announced that it had instructed the Tehran prosecutor general to re-examine Panahi’s case.

“Legal procedures of [Panahi’s] case have been almost completed and there is much hope that he will be released soon,” said Javad Shamaghdari, Iran’s Deputy Minister of Culture, responsible for film, in comments reported by Iran’s ISNA news agency.

However, Mr Shamaghdari also criticised the high-profile “propaganda” campaign waged by leading international figures in the arts and politics calling for the director to be freed.

Panahi, 49, has been imprisoned since 1 March, when state security forces raided his house in the Iranian capital. He is being held in solitary confinement at Tehran’s Evin prison and in recent weeks has gone on hunger strike.

A vocal supporter of the opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi at last year’s disputed general election, Panahi is alleged to have been planning to make an anti-government film centred on the poll and the violent suppression of opposition protests in the weeks that followed.

The opposition claims the poll was rigged to secure the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Panahi’s work has received critical acclaim for its unflinching portrayal of the social tensions in contemporary Iran. His most recent feature, Offside, featured a group of women defying the ban on them attending football matches and attempting to enter the national stadium disguised as men to watch a crucial World Cup qualifier.

This critical stance has led to conflict with government censors. Most of his films have been banned from Iranian cinemas.

Panahi was selected as a juror for this year’s Cannes Film Festival. In protest at his detention, his chair on the jury was left vacant throughout the event.

Fellow Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami issued an open letter during the festival describing his compatriot’s detention as “intolerable” and “an attack on art itself”.

Copyright 2010 Times Newspapers Ltd.

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