Acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi has been released on bail after starting a hunger strike to protest against his almost seven-month detention, a rights group and supporters said on Friday.
Panahi has been released from Tehran’s Evin prison “two days after starting his hunger strike for freedom,” the US-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) said on Twitter, while Iran’s Shargh newspaper posted an image of Panahi jubilantly embracing a supporter.
The prize-winning director was arrested in July and went on a dry hunger strike on Wednesday to protest his continued detention.
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“Mr Panahi was temporarily released from Evin prison with the efforts of his family, respected lawyers, and representatives of the cinema,” Iran’s House of Cinema, which groups together industry professionals, said in a statement.
The announcement that Panahi was going on a dry hunger strike sparked a wave of concern across the world about the director, who has won prizes at all of Europe’s top three film festivals.
“I will remain in this state until perhaps my lifeless body is freed from prison,” Panahi had warned in a statement published by his wife.
Panahi, 62, was arrested on July 11 and had been due to serve a six-year sentence handed down in 2010 after his conviction for “propaganda against the system.”
On October 15, the Supreme Court quashed the conviction and ordered a retrial, raising hopes among his legal team he could be released, but he remained in prison.
Panahi won a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2000 for his film “The Circle.” In 2015, he won the Golden Bear in Berlin for “Taxi Tehran,” and in 2018, he won the best screenplay prize at Cannes for “Three Faces.”
“It is extraordinary, a relief, a total joy. We express our gratitude to all those who mobilized yesterday,” his French distributor, producer Michele Halberstadt, told AFP.
“His next fight is to have the cancellation of his sentence officially recognized. He’s outside, he’s free, and this is already great.”
Panahi’s July arrest came after he attended a court hearing for fellow film director Mohammad Rasoulof, who had been detained a few days earlier.
Rasoulof was released from prison on January 7 after being granted a two-week furlough for health reasons and is still believed to be outside of jail.
Cinema figures have been among the thousands of people arrested by Iran in its crackdown on protests sparked by the September 16 death in custody of Mahsa Amini, 22, who had been arrested for allegedly violating its strict dress code for women.
Star actor Taraneh Alidoosti, who had published images of herself without wearing the Islamic headscarf, was among those detained although she was released in early January after being held for almost three weeks.
Jailed Iran filmmaker Jafar Panahi goes on hunger strike to protest detention
Images of emaciated Iranian prisoner on hunger strike prompt outrage