Jafar Panahi Ordered to Serve Six Years in Jail: ‘This Is a Kidnapping’

The "Taxi" director was arrested after visiting fellow filmmakers Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Al-Ahmad at Evin prison.
3 FACES, (aka THREE FACES, aka SE ROKH), Jafar Panahi, 2018. © Kino Lorber Films / courtesy Everett Collection
Jafar Panahi in "Three Faces"
©Kino International / Everett Collection

After being arrested in Tehran last week, award-winning filmmaker Jafar Panahi has been ordered to serve six years in jail.

Per BBC, Iranian media reports Panahi was detained after going to Evin prison to inquire about the arrests of directors Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Al-Ahmad. Rasoulof and Al-Ahmad had posted statements on social media decrying the government-sanctioned violence in response to protests in Abadan following the collapse of a building that killed more than 40 people. They were officially detained on charges of “inciting unrest and disrupting the psychological security of society”, state news agency Irna reported.

“Taxi” director Panahi had asked about the conditions and hopeful release of Rasoulof, as Panahi’s wife Tahereh Saeedi told BBC Persian. Once Panahi arrived at the prison, he was informed by guards that he had an outstanding prison sentence to serve and was arrested.

“Jafar has some rights as a citizen. There’s due process,” Saeedi stated. “To imprison someone, they need to be summoned first. But to imprison someone who is protesting outside the jail raises a lot of questions. This is a kidnapping.”

Sources recently told IndieWire that Panahi is currently being kept in a cell with other inmates, with his wife Saeedi able to bring him his medications.

Panahi’s upcoming drama “No Bears” is still expected to move forward with a premiere during the 2022 fall festival circuit. The Cannes festival said in a statement last week that it “strongly condemns these arrests as well as the wave of repression obviously in progress in Iran against its artists.” The Venice and Berlin film festivals also issued statements for the release of the Iranian filmmakers.

“Three Faces” Cannes Best Screenplay winner Panahi previously had been arrested in 2010 for supporting anti-government protests after a disputed presidential election. He was convicted of “propaganda against the system” and sentenced to six years in prison, while also being banned from making movies or traveling abroad for 20 years. At the time, Panahi served two months before being released on conditional bail.

Iranian cinema scholar Jamsheed Akrami exclusively told IndieWire that the nation cannot “arrest all the filmmakers” who protest the government.

“They would probably like to do that and they have the power, but they have so many other problems they have to deal with,” Akrami explained. “We still don’t know if this is just a show on the part of the government and they’ll give up after a week or two or not. It all depends on the political volatility in the country.”

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