Friday, December 17, 2010
Publish date: November 11 • Printable version    

Iranian filmmaker defends himself in court

Jafar Panahi upon his release from prison in June

Jafar Panahi, prominent Iranian filmmaker defended himself in court last Sunday saying the proceedings against him are an attack on Iran’s arts and filmmaking community.

Panahi was arrested last December at his home in the midst of a gathering. His guests along with his wife and his fifteen-year-old daughter were also arrested at that time.

Pro-government websites had reported that Panahi was in the process of making an anti-regime film and he was charged with “trying to foment protests and disturbances.”

He defended his right to engage in making films that address the country’s social issues. He also contested the charge of “participating in street gathering” saying, as a socially-engaged filmmaker, he has the right to observe the developments in his country.

After the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, millions of people took to the streets protesting that their votes had been stolen and Ahmadinejad’s victory was fraudulent. The protests were put down with fierce violence from the government and followed by continuous arrest and imprisonment of protesters and reformist figures of the Islamic Republic.

Jafar Panahi said that he has also been charged for signing anti-government petitions. He maintained that the only petition he has signed is one that was issued by 37 filmmakers expressing their concern about the future of the country in view of the disturbing events of the time. He asked the court: “Is it a crime to express our opinion and do all these 37 filmmakers have to be tried for doing so? Should filmmakers remain indifferent to the fate of their country?”

Panahi went on to deny the charge of “organizing anti-government demonstrations abroad” and in terms of giving interviews to Persian language media abroad, he stressed that there are no laws against it.

He concluded that his arrest along with his family and colleagues was “a direct attack on the country’s arts and culture community.”

He added: “Despite all these cruelties, I still announce that I am Iranian and will remain in Iran.”

The award-winning filmmaker urged the authorities to refrain from violence and base all human and social interactions on “peace, tolerance and mutual respect.”

Jafar Panahi was held in prison for three months at the end of which he went on a hunger strike. After a week of this strike, the authorities finally released him on a $200,000 bail.

Many reformist figures and post-election detainees have been handed heavy prison terms by the Islamic Republic judiciary. Many dissidents have also had to flee the country in fear of State persecution.

Comments of the visitors

I wish you good luck, dear Jafar Panahi

-- Jo Reymen, actor, Brussels (Belgium) ، Nov 11, 2010

Sr. Panahi, que possa o quanto antes deixar o seu infeliz país e salvar-se. Boa sorte,

-- wellington mendes ، Nov 15, 2010

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