Dissident Iranian film-maker Jafar Panahi arrested

Dissident Iranian film-maker Jafar Panahi arrested

Dissident Iranian film-maker Jafar Panahi arrested

Award-winning dissident Iranian film-maker Jafar Panahi was arrested Monday, the third director to be detained in less than a week, the Mehr news agency said.

Panahi, 62, has won a slew of awards at international festivals for films that have critiqued modern Iran, including the top prize in Berlin for “Taxi” in 2015, and best screenplay at Cannes for his film “Three Faces” in 2018.

“Jafar Panahi has been arrested today when he went to the prosecutor’s office to follow up on the situation of another film-maker, Mohammad Rasoulof,” Mehr reported.

State news agency IRNA had reported last week that Rasoulof, also an award winning film-maker, had been arrested along with colleague Mostafa Aleahmad.

Panahi was also arrested in 2010, following his support for anti-government protests. He was later convicted of “propaganda against the system,” sentenced to six years in jail and handed a ban on directing or writing films.

Since then has been barred from leaving the country to pick up any of his awards.

Rasoulof, 50, won the Golden Bear in Berlin in 2020 with his film “There Is No Evil” but was likewise unable to accept the award in person as he was barred from leaving Iran.

Rasoulof and Aleahmad were arrested over events relating to a deadly building collapse of the Metropol building in the city of Abadan, an event which sparked angry protests, IRNA said.

“In the midst of the heart-breaking incident in Abadan’s Metropol, [the filmmakers] were involved in inciting unrest and disrupting the psychological security of society,” the agency said.

The 10-storey Metropol building, that was under construction in southwestern Khuzestan province, collapsed on May 23, killing 43 people.

A group of Iranian filmmakers led by Rasoulof published an open letter calling on the security forces to “lay down their arms” in the face of outrage over the “corruption, theft, inefficiency and repression” surrounding the Abadan collapse.

Rasoulof’s passport had been confiscated after his 2017 film “A Man of Integrity” premiered at Cannes, where it won the top prize in the Un Certain Regard section of the festival.

Cannes film festival organizers, in a statement on July 11, said they “strongly condemn the directors’ arrests as well as the wave of repression evidently under way in Iran against its artists”, calling for their immediate release.

The Berlin film festival, which last week protested against the arrests of Rasoulof and Aleahmad, said it was “dismayed and outraged to hear of the arrest of another Iranian filmmaker.”

Berlinale directors Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian said the arrest of Panahi was “another violation of freedom of expression and freedom of the arts.”