Acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi has been released on bail from Tehran’s Evin prison after going on hunger strike to protest his detention.
Yusef Moulai, Panahi’s lawyer, confirmed he had been released on bail and returned home. He said Panahi was in good health after two days without food, the Associated Press news agency reported.
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Panahi’s wife Tahereh Saidi posted an image on Instagram of Panahi being driven from prison in a vehicle.
There was no immediate comment from the judiciary on the release.
News on Thursday that Panahi, 62, had gone on a hunger strike in which he was refusing food and water caused a wave of concern across the world about the director, who has won prizes at all of Europe’s top three film festivals.
Considered one of Iranian cinema’s greatest living masters, Panahi is known for prizewinning films such as The Circle, which won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2000. He also won the Cannes Film Festival’s Camera d’Or prize for his 1995 movie White Balloon and the Golden Bear in Berlin for Taxi Tehran in 2015.
“It is extraordinary, a relief, a total joy,” Panahi’s French distributor, producer Michele Halberstadt, told the AFP news agency on Friday about the director’s release. “We express our gratitude to all those who mobilised yesterday.”
“His next fight is to have the cancellation of his sentence officially recognised,” Halberstadt said. “He’s outside, he’s free, and this is already great.”
Panahi was imprisoned despite a ruling by Iran’s Supreme Court in October that quashed a six-year sentence in 2010 for “propaganda against the system”.
“I will remain in this state until perhaps my lifeless body is freed from prison,” Panahi had warned in a statement announcing his hunger strike, which was published by his wife.
The director was detained in July in the wake of the government crackdown on dissent. He was arrested after he inquired about another director, Mohammad Rasoulof, who was imprisoned a few days earlier after signing an appeal against police violence.
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Rasoulof was released from prison on January 7 after being granted a two-week furlough for health reasons and is believed to still be free.
Cinema figures have been among the thousands of people arrested in Iran in the government’s crackdown on protests sparked by the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini. The 22-year-old died in police custody after her arrest for allegedly violating Iran’s strict dress code for women.
Actor Taraneh Alidoosti, who had published images of herself without the Islamic headscarf, was among those detained although she was released in early January after being held for almost three weeks.
At least four people have been hanged since the demonstrations started, according to the judiciary. Iran has accused foreign enemies of fomenting the unrest.