Jafar Panahi has been released on bail from Tehran’s Evin Prison, 48 hours after he went on a hunger strike in protest of his unlawful imprisonment.
The filmmaker’s wife Tahereh Saeidi and her lawyers Saleh Nikbakht and Yusef Moulai announced the news in a phone call to independent international cinema reporter Mansour Jahani, and on social media.
“Although I am happy about Mr. Panahi’s release; But it must be said that his release should have taken place three months ago, following the acceptance of our objection to his previous court decision,” Nikbakht said via press statement. “I am surprised by these ‘sledgehammer encounters’ with Mr. Panahi and other artists, writers, intellectuals and journalists and generally protestors of the status quo. As they even neglect to implement the decision of the highest judicial authority.”
“The decision of the Supreme Court was issued following our objection to Mr. Panahi’s previous sentence on October 18, 2022, and Mr. Panahi should have been released on bail immediately,” the statement continued.
The director of films like “No Bear” and “The White Balloon” has been detained since July 2022. In October, the Supreme Court agreed to a retrial after his lawyers argued that the 10-year statute of limitations on his initial sentence of six years had expired. This should have immediately granted him release on bail, but he remained incarcerated.
On Wednesday, Panahi announced the hunger strike via statements shared by his wife and son. “I will refuse to eat and drink any food and medicine until the time of my release,” he wrote. “I will remain in this state until perhaps my lifeless body is freed from prison.”
Panahi was sent back to prison prior to the nationwide protests sparked by Mahsa Amini’s murder under police custody. Originally sentenced in 2010 for “propaganda against the system,” he was imprisoned once again after raising questions about the arrests of fellow filmmakers Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Al-Ahmad. As part of his original sentence, he was also placed under a 20-year ban on writing and directing, giving interviews with Iranian or foreign media, and traveling outside of the country.
Nevertheless, Panahi has managed to direct several films since, including international award-winners “Taxi Tehran” (2015), “Three Faces” (2018) and “No Bears” (2022) which won a Special Jury Prize at Venice Film Festival.
In a tweet sharing the news of Panahi’s release, the Center for Human Rights in Iran noted that a number of other film industry workers “remain arbitrarily jailed in Iran.” More than 100 artists have been arrested and/or banned from filmmaking for siding with protesters, according to Iranian guild House of Cinema.