Acclaimed Iranian Filmmaker Jafar Panahi Arrested Amid Crackdown on Dissidents

Iranian authorities arrested award-winning filmmaker Jafar Panahi in Tehran, becoming the third director to be detained in less than a week.

Authorities arrested Pahani when he went to Evin prison to ask prosecutors about another filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof, who was arrested on July 8 after attending a protest related to a deadly building collapse, Mehr news agency reported.

Pahani’s wife Tahereh Saeedi called Pahani’s arrest “a kidnapping.”

“Jafar has some rights as a citizen. There’s due process. To imprison someone, the person needs to be summoned first. But to imprison someone who is protesting outside the jail raises a lot of questions,” Saeedi told BBC Persian on July 11.

Pahani’s arrest came a day after he signed a joint statement calling on Iranian security forces to “lay down their arms” and for his fellow filmmakers to be released from prison.

Authorities arrested Rasoulof and Mostafa Al-e Ahmad over social media posts relating to the collapse of the 10-story Metropol building in the city of Abadan in southwestern Khuzestan province on May 23, killing 43 people.

The collapse sparked protests, demanding “incompetence officials” be prosecuted.

In 2010, Pahani was convicted of “propaganda against the system,” after expressing support for anti-government protests and making films that critiqued modern Iran. He was sentenced to six years in prison and has been banned from leaving the country for 20 years.

Pahani won the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival for his film “Taxi” in 2015 and the Best Screenplay prize at Cannes Film Festival for “Three Faces” in 2018.

In a statement on July 11, the Cannes Festival said it “strongly condemns” the arrests of the three Iranian filmmakers and called for their “immediate release.”

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