Together with Asghar Farhadi, Jafar Panahi is the most awarded director of Iran's internationally renowned cinema. In 2011, Panahi was sentenced to six years in prison and a 20-year ban from working for "anti-regime propaganda." However, the sentence was never carried out, and so Panahi continued to make films clandestinely, under the eyes of the suspicious mullah regime. “Taxi Tehran” won the Golden Bear at the Berlinale in 2015, and “Keine Bären” won the Special Jury Prize in Venice last September. At this point, Panahi was no longer at liberty. He was arrested under unclear circumstances shortly after the start of mass protests in Iran.
Now Panahi's wife, producer Tahereh Saeidi, has released a statement from her husband from prison. In it he describes not only for the first time the exact circumstances of his arrest, but also what has happened in the six months since then. And he announces that he has gone on a hunger strike - "until maybe my lifeless body is freed from prison". The statement in full:
“On July 20 last year, in protest at the arrests of two of our beloved colleagues, Mr. Mohammad Rasulof and Mostafa Al-Ahmad, I gathered with a group of filmmakers in front of Evin prison. It was decided that some of us and the lawyers of our colleagues in prison would enter the Evin Courthouse.
We were talking peacefully with the relevant authorities and the investigator in charge when an officer came and took me to the judge at Division 1 of the Evin Enforcement Service. The young judge said without introducing himself: 'We looked for you in the air, we found you here. You're under arrest!'
This is how I was arrested and transferred to Evin Prison to carry out a sentence that had been passed 11 years previously. Under the law I was arrested for at the time, such sentences expire after ten years of non-enforcement and are then no longer enforceable. Therefore, this arrest was more like banditry and hostage-taking than the execution of a court sentence.
Not only was my arrest illegal, but the judiciary, in violation of the relevant 1990 law, managed to have the Supreme Court retrial on October 15, 2022. With the acceptance of the request for retrial, the case was remanded to a lower court; after that I should have been released immediately on bail. It is true that we have seen that it takes less than thirty days from the arrest to the execution of the innocent youth of our country; However, it took more than a hundred days to hand my case over to the authorities, involving the security forces.
The law clearly states that the lower court judge is required to issue a bail order to release me once the case has been transferred to his jurisdiction. Due to the release of a large amount of bail, I am still being held in prison after months of imprisonment, with repeated excuses from the security authorities.
In this behavior we are dealing with vexatious and extra-legal security agencies and an unquestioning submission to the judiciary, as well as the selective application of the law.
All this is just a pretext for repression. Even though I knew that the judiciary and security institutions are not willing to actually enforce the law (despite claiming so), out of respect for my lawyers and friends, I have used all legal avenues to get my justice.
Today, like many people trapped in Iran, I have no choice but to protest this inhumane behavior with my most precious possession, my life.
Therefore, I emphatically declare that I have been on a hunger strike since the morning of February 2 in protest against the extra-legal and inhuman behavior of the judicial and security apparatus and against my kidnapping. I will refuse to eat, drink and take medicine until my release. I will remain in this state - until perhaps my lifeless body is freed from prison.
With love for Iran and the people of my country, Jafar Panahi.”