Dissident Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi arrested

The 62-year-old won Golden Bear at Berlin film festival in 2015

Iranian film director Jafar Panahi on a balcony overlooking Tehran during an interview with AFP in 2010. AFP
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Award-winning dissident Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi has been arrested, the third director to be detained in less than a week, Mehr news agency said on Monday.

Panahi, 62, won a Golden Bear at the Berlin film festival in 2015.

“Jafar Panahi has been arrested today when he went to the prosecutor's office to follow up on the situation of another filmmaker, Mohammad Rasoulof,” AFP reported, citing Mehr.

State news agency IRNA reported late on Friday that Rasoulof, also an award-winning filmmaker, had been arrested along with colleague Mostafa Aleahmad.

Panahi has won many awards at international festivals, including the top prize in Berlin for Taxi in 2015, and best screenplay at Cannes for his film Three Faces in 2018.

German actress Anke Engelke, left, near a portrait of Jafar Panahi as the president of the Berlinale International Jury Darren Aronofsky, centre, holds the Golden Bear for Best Film, awarded to Panahi for his film 'Taxi'. AFP

But since being convicted of “propaganda against the system” in 2010 following his support for anti-government protests and a string of films that criticised modern Iran, he has been barred from leaving the country to receive any of these awards.

Rasoulof, 50, won the Golden Bear in Berlin in 2020 with his film There Is No Evil but was also unable to accept the award in person as he was barred from leaving Iran.

Both he and Aleahmad were arrested over events related to the deadly collapse of the Metropol building in the city of Abadan, an event that sparked angry protests, IRNA reported.

“In the midst of the heartbreaking incident in Abadan's Metropol, [the filmmakers] were involved in inciting unrest and disrupting the psychological security of society,” the agency added.

The 10-storey Metropol building that was under construction in south-western Khuzestan province collapsed on May 23, killing 43 people.

Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof poses during a photo call for the film 'The Immigrant' at the 66th international film festival in Cannes, France in May 2013. AP

It sparked demonstrations in solidarity with victims' families.

Demonstrators demanded that “incompetent officials” responsible for the tragedy be prosecuted and punished, with protesters facing tear gas, warning shots and arrests by police.

A group of Iranian filmmakers led by Rasoulof published an open letter calling on security forces to “lay down their arms” in the face of outrage over the “corruption, theft, inefficiency and repression” surrounding the Abadan collapse.

Organisers of the Berlin film festival on Saturday protested against the arrests of Rasoulof and Aleahmad and called for their release.

Rasoulof's passport was confiscated after the premiere of his 2017 film A Man of Integrity at Cannes, where it won the top prize in the “Un Certain Regard” section of the festival.

Updated: July 11, 2022, 4:04 PM
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