Tehran, Iran – Iran’s judiciary has said award-winning filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who was arrested earlier this month in Tehran, must serve a six-year sentence that was originally handed to him in 2010.
Judiciary spokesman Masoud Setayeshi told reporters during a press conference on Tuesday that Panahi was arrested and sent to Evin prison in Tehran on July 11 to begin serving his sentence.
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Panahi had received the sentence for supporting anti-government demonstrations, but after several months received a conditional release, although it was liable to be revoked at any time.
He was arrested after he went to the prosecutor’s office in Tehran to inquire about the condition of two fellow filmmakers who had been arrested days earlier.
The other directors, Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa al-Ahmad, were arrested after they used their social media accounts to condemn the Iranian state’s response to protests in May in the southwestern city of Abadan that formed after a building collapse.
The directors had used a hashtag that asked security forces to: “put your guns down”.
The collapse of the 10-storey Metropol building – which had flouted safety rules – killed dozens and triggered a search and rescue operation that took more than a week. Several officials and individuals were also arrested in relation to corrupt practices that led to the deadly incident.
According to the judiciary spokesman, Panahi’s original sentence had included five years in prison for “gathering and collusion” and one year for “propaganda against the establishment”, and he must serve that sentence.
Setayeshi did not comment on the other two arrested filmmakers.
Panahi is an internationally celebrated filmmaker who has won the coveted Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival in 2015 for his film Taxi and in 2020 for There Is No Evil, in addition to the best screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018 for 3 Faces.
Panahi had continued making movies despite a ban on his professional activities and on his leaving the country. There Is No Evil reportedly had to be covertly smuggled to be screened at Berlinale.
The news of the arrests has reverberated across the global film community, and several international film festivals including Berlin, Cannes, Venice and Locarno have condemned them.
The French foreign ministry also condemned the arrests last week, citing a “worrying deterioration in the situation of artists in Iran”.