Filmmaker Jafar Panahi has been “temporarily” released from Iranian prison, three days after he went on a hunger and thirst strike to protest his arrest in Tehran in July 2022.
Good News: Award winning Iranian film director Jafar Panahi is released following months of unlawful detention. This came after he announced he will go on dry hunger strike 48 hours ago. #JafarPanahi #جعفر_پناهی https://t.co/TyGziNsadr pic.twitter.com/n2gmWp2Wu1
— Bahman Kalbasi (@BahmanKalbasi) February 3, 2023
The director was arrested in early July in a climate of repression of freedom of expression, after going to Evin prison to find out about the fate of directors Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Al-Ahmad, arrested a few days earlier.
A few days later the Iranian authorities decided to reactivate the six-year prison sentence originally imposed on Panahi in 2010. They also imposed a 20-year film and travel ban on him.
Panahi shared his statement on his wife Tahereh Saeidi’s Instagram page. He said:
“Today, like many people trapped in Iran, I have no choice but to protest these inhumane behaviors with my dearest possession, which is my life.
Therefore, I firmly declare that in protest against the extra-legal and inhuman behavior of the judicial and security apparatus and against this particular hostage-taking, I have been on a hunger strike since the morning of the 12th of Bahman, and I will refuse to eat and drink any food and medicine until my release. I will remain in this state until perhaps my lifeless body is released from prison.”
On February 3, Panahi’s wife, Tahereh Saeidi, posted a photo of her with her husband accompanied by the message:
“Temporary release of Jafar Panahi. Today, Friday, February 16, and on the third day of Jafar Panahi’s all-out strike, thanks to the efforts of his family, esteemed lawyers, representatives of the film company and film organization, Mr. Panahi was temporarily released from prison of Evin”.
Yusef Moulai, Panahi’s lawyer, confirmed to the Associated Press that Panahi was released “on bail” and returned home.
Lawyer Saleh Nikbakht said:
“Although I am happy about Panahi’s release, it should be said that his release should have taken place three months ago, after our objection to the earlier court decision was accepted.”
The 2010 conviction and the repercussions
In 2009 Panahi attended the funeral of a student killed during the Green Revolution, and attempted to make a film set during the time of the uprising. he was convicted of “propaganda against the system” in 2010.
He had initially served two months in prison before being granted a revocable conditional release. His conviction was later declared null and void by Iran’s Supreme Court.
In October in the Supreme Court, Nikbakht successfully argued that the six-year sentence had exceeded the 10-year statute of limitations and was no longer enforceable.
He had been granted permission to request a retrial, which was supposed to result in Panahi’s automatic release on bail, but Iranian authorities obstructed the activation process.