Director Jafar Panahi Anxiously Awaits Iranian Court Ruling on His Release From Jail

A ruling on Jafar Panahi’s release from Tehran’s Evin prison is deemed imminent now that Iran’s supreme court has overturned the conviction that led to the incarceration last year of the auteur who is considered one of Iranian cinema’s greatest living masters.

Panahi’s wife, Tahereh Saeedi, has launched an appeal on Instagram stating that his lawyers have managed to successfully overturn the six-year sentence issued against the director in 2010 for “propaganda against the system.” That sentence has become obsolete due to the country’s 10-year statute of limitations. Panahi’s case has now been sent to an Iranian court of appeals.

“Last week we were informed that Jafar will be out in a week,” Saeedi said in the appeal posted on Instagram this week. However, “a week passed by and Jafar is still not with us,” she went on to lament.

Panahi’s lawyer, Saleh Nikhbakht, told French news agency AFP that under Iranian law, “he should immediately be released on bail and his case reviewed again.” But the directors’ wife and others in Iran’s film community fear that Iranian security forces will manage to force the judiciary to keep him behind bars.

“The liberation of Jafar is in total accordance of their own laws,” Saeedi pointed out in the appeal. “But they [Iranian authorities] are above the law; without any respect for the law,” she said.

Panahi, 62, is known globally for prizewinning works such as “The Circle,” “Offside,” “This is Not a Film,” “Taxi,” and most recently “No Bears,” winner of last year’s Venice’s Special Jury Prize. He was arrested last July in Tehran in the wake of the country’s conservative government crackdown. Panahi had been there to visit Tehran’s prosecutor’s office to follow up on the situation of fellow dissident filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulov, who had been incarcerated a few days earlier after signing an appeal against police violence.

On Jan. 7, Rasoulov was granted a two-week release permit for health reasons, his lawyer told AFP. Panahi’s lawyer also said that Panahi, during his detention in Tehran’s Evin prison for political prisoners, has contracted a skin disease which requires treatment in a hospital outside the jail.

Rasoulov and Panahi’s imprisonment took place before the wave of protests sparked in September by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while she was held in custody for allegedly wearing a loose hijab. Those protests have caused more than 500 civilians to be killed by government security forces and more than 100 members of the Iranian film industry to be arrested or banned from making movies.

On Jan. 4, Iranian authorities released Taraneh Alidoosti, the star of Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar-winning film “The Salesman,” almost three weeks after she was jailed for criticizing a crackdown on the anti-government protests.

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