Iran Rejects Jafar Panahi’s Appeal

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The director must serve a six-year prison sentence and is banned from making films for the next 20 years.

COLOGNE, Germany – A court in Tehran has rejected Jafar Panahi’s attempt to appeal his prison sentence for allegedly making propaganda films against the Iranian government. The court confirmed the original sentence handed Panahi in December last year: a six-year prison term and a 20-year-ban from making films. But Panahi has not given up yet. The director’s lawyer told Iranian Student News Agency Isna he would appeal the ruling to Iran’s supreme court.

Panahi is one of Iran’s most acclaimed film directors, having won honors in the Berlin, Cannes and Venice Film Festivals. His features  - such as The Mirror (1997), The Circle (2000) and Offside (2006) – are not overtly political but in their depiction of ordinary life in Iran can be viewed as subtle critiques of the Islamic regime.

Panahi came in direct conflict with the Iranian government after the country’s presidential elections in 2009, when the director accused president Mahmud Ahmadinedschad of faking the election results. He was arrested and charged together with director collegue Mohammad Rasoulof.

Panahi secretly shot a documentary about his life under house arrest with Mojtaba Mirtahmasb. This Is Not a Film, shot on an iPhone and smuggled out of the country in a cake, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this year. Shortly before the film’s premiere in Toronto last month, Mirtahmasb, along with five other Iranian filmmakers, was arrested and changed with espionage for working for the BBC.

Tehran recently released directors Naser Safarian and Mohsen Shahnazdar – but the fate of Mirtahmasb and the three others - Katayoon Shahabi, Hadi Afarideh and Shahnama Bazdar – remains unclear.