Iranian film-makers still detained after Panahis release

Iranian film-maker Jafar Panahi was released from Iran’s Evin prison yesterday on bail of £140,000, following a campaign from such luminaries as Juliette Binoche – holding up a sign with his name as she collected the Cannes’ Best Actress award – and Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, the Coen brothers and Francis Ford Coppola. Less surprising was Amnesty International’s intervention, as we mobilised our members with an ‘Urgent Action’ appeal, leading to thousands of faxes and email to the Iranian authorities from our supporters.

The Guardian’s Xan Brooks has blogged about his own meetings with Panahi, too.

However, Panahi wasn’t the only film-maker detained for exercising his right to freedom of expression, and those others – who sadly didn’t enjoy such high-profile support from Cannes’ glitterati – remain locked up.

Mohammad Ali Shirzadi, aged 39, was arrested by five unidentified men on 4 January outside his home in Tehran, and was held in Evin prison – we have still had no news of his release. His family believe his arrest may be linked to an interview he filmed around two years ago, between prominent human rights defender Emadeddin Baghi and Grand Ayatollah Montazeri. The film was shown after Grand Ayatollah Montazeri died in December 2009, and Emadeddin Baghi was arrested shortly afterwards and has been in detention ever since.

Another film-maker and journalist, Mohammed Nourizad, was arrested in December and subsequently sentenced to three-and-a-half years and 50 lashes for “insulting the authorities” and “propaganda against the system”. The Jaras  website reports that he has been held in solitary confinement and is still on hunger strike to protest the conditions in which he is held.

The New York Times cites a ‘reformist website’ as source of news that “Nourizad was pummeled [sic] so badly when he was allowed out of his prison cell that his vision was damaged.”

It’s all part of a much wider and continuing pattern of repression of critical voices in Iran – journalists, human rights defenders, students and trade unionists have all been targeted – in the wake of the post-election protests.

So is you’re reading Juliette, Steven, Martin, Joel, Nathan and Francis – and I’m sure you all do follow the Amnesty blog – I’m afraid we need you to speak up once again.

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