One of Iran’s most influential filmmakers, Jafar Panahi, has reportedly gone on a hunger strike in Tehran’s Evin prison to protest his continued detention.
The move by Panahi, a Cannes film festival award winner who directed such movies as “The White Balloon,” “The Circle,” and “No Bears,” comes after his hopes of a temporary release were denied, activist group Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) reported, citing Pahani’s wife, Tahereh Saeedi.
On Wednesday, Pahani apparently wrote on his wife’s Instagram account, “Today, like many people trapped in Iran, I have no choice but to spend my dearest property… I will refrain from eating and drinking any kind of food or medicine. I will remain in this situation so long that my lifeless body may be released from prison. With love to Iran and the people of my land.”
Panahi was arrested in front of Evin prison on July 11, 2022, and told he would have to serve a six-year prison sentence issued by a Tehran court in 2011, according to HRANA.
He had been charged with making anti-government propaganda and inciting protests during the turmoil that followed the 2009 election, Reuters reported.
The Artistic Freedom Initiative (AFI), a New York-based human rights organization, said that because Panahi’s sentence was handed down over a decade ago, the statute of limitations had expired under Iranian law.
But the Iranian judiciary refused to review his case or release him on bail, AFI reported.
In an open letter, published on HRANA’s website, Panahi wrote, “According to law, once my request for a retrial was accepted and my legal case was delivered to a court branch for review, I should have been released on bail immediately.”
In his open letter, he referenced the protests that have roiled the country since the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September 2022, and the wave of arrests and executions that have since taken place.
“While we witnessed the execution of the innocent young men of our country within 30 days, by the interference of intelligence agents, delivering my case to a court branch took over 100 days,” Panahi said.
Panahi has been suffering from the flu and other ailments in prison in the past few weeks, and has been constantly harassed by the authorities and deprived of basic rights in prison, a source close to the film director told AFI.
CNN has reached out to Iran’s government for comment but has not heard back.