Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 00:21 am (KSA) 21:21 pm (GMT)

Iran film-maker Panahi free from jail

Panahi, winner of many international awards was arrested in March (File)
Panahi, winner of many international awards was arrested in March (File)

Jailed Iranian film director Jafar Panahi, who has been on hunger strike for more than a week, was released on bail of 2 billion rials (about $200,000) on Tuesday, the official IRNA news agency reported.

"Yes, he has been freed. He is fine. We are taking him to the doctor," Panahi's wife, Tahereh Saeedi, confirmed via telephone.

She added that they wanted the doctor to "prescribe a diet" for Panahi.

 Yes, he has been freed. He is fine. We are taking him to the doctor 
Tahereh Saeedi

Panahi, winner of many international awards and a supporter of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi in last year's disputed presidential election, was arrested in March along with his wife and daughter. His family was later freed.

Despite his release, the office of Tehran's prosecutor said his case and the indictment against him would be submitted to the capital's Revolutionary Court, IRNA said, suggesting he may still face trial. It did not give further details.

Repeated calls for Panahi's release had been made since his arrest, including at Cannes where the festival concluded on Sunday.

The ILNA news agency at the weekend cited a letter signed by 85 mostly young and upcoming Iranian directors as demanding he be freed.

Jailing condemned

 I am innocent. I have not made any film against the Iranian regime 
Panahi statement

The Cannes film festival and the French government had also condemned the jailing of Panahi, while French actress Juliette Binoche wept when she heard that he was on hunger strike.

Panahi's mentor and countryman Abbas Kiarostami, whose movie "Certified Copy" failed to clinch this year's Palme d'Or, last week denounced from Cannes the Iranian authorities' crackdown on artists and called for Panahi's release.

"When a film-maker, an artist is imprisoned it is art as a whole that is attacked," Kiarostami told reporters after a press screening of his "Certified Copy" on May 18, for which Binoche won best actress award.

Prominent international film-makers Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Ang Lee and Oliver Stone had also joined the chorus calling

In a message read out at Cannes, Panahi denied any wrongdoing.

"I am innocent. I have not made any film against the Iranian regime," he said.

Panahi, whose films often examine social issues faced by women in the conservative Islamic state, had been due to sit on the jury of the 2010 Cannes festival.

He won the festival's Camera d'Or prize for his 1995 movie, "White Balloon" and senior French government ministers called on Iran this month to free him.

Iran's election in June last year plunged the Islamic state into months of political turmoil.

The pro-reform opposition says it was rigged to secure the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but the authorities portrayed the huge protests that erupted after the vote as a foreign-backed bid to undermine the clerical establishment.

Thousands of opposition supporters were detained after the vote. Most of them have since been freed but more than 80 people have been jailed for up to 15 years. Two people put on trial after the election have been executed.

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