Amnesty International has urged Iran to release a filmmaker accused of criticizing the authorities and allow him to attend this week’s Cannes Film Festival, where he has been invited as a member of the festival jury.
Award-winning director Ja’far Panahi is due to appear at the cinema showpiece in France on Wednesday but is detained in Tehran’s Evin Prison, following his arrest on 1 March for making a film about the disputed presidential election of 2009.
Another Iranian filmmaker, Mohammad Ali Shirzadi, is detained in the same prison, apparently for filming an interview between a human rights defender and prominent dissenting cleric, Ayatollah Montazeri. Amnesty International considers both men to be prisoners of conscience.
“An empty chair at the Cannes Film Festival, set aside for Ja’far Panahi, will highlight the folly and injustice of Iran’s crackdown on those who have peacefully criticized the government in the wake of last June’s election,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director.
“Ja’far Panahi’s work has garnered respect and plaudits internationally, yet in Iran he languishes in jail.”