Filmmaker denounces artistic crackdown in Iran

AFP, Tuesday 21 Dec 2010

Jailed filmmaker Jafar Panahi accused Iranian authorities of "kidnapping" Iranian artists to intimidate them, according to a transcript of his trial plea published in France on Tuesday

Panahi, 50, was handed a six-year jail term by an Iranian court for "propaganda against the system," his lawyer said. Another director working with him, Mohammad Rasoulof, was also reportedly sentenced to six years' jail.

"My imprisonment and that of those I work with symbolises the kidnapping by those in power carried out against all artists in the country," he said in his plea to the court on 7 November, published by French newspaper Le Monde.

"The message these actions gives seems to me clear and sad: whoever does not think like us will be sorry for it," he added.
Panahi's lawyer Farideh Gheirat said on Monday the court banned the filmmaker, widely-known outside Iran for award-winning films such as "The Circle," "Crimson Gold" and "Offside", from making films or leaving Iran for 20 years.

He was initially arrested in March along with his wife, daughter and several others at his home, and later bailed.

Authorities accused him of making an "anti-regime" film about the unrest which rocked Iran after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009.

Panahi's arrest was protested by artists including top filmmakers Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Ang Lee and Oliver Stone.

"We have been hit by censorship before but this is the first time a filmmaker has been sentenced and imprisoned to stop him making a film," he said in the plea, which described police raiding his home and threatening his family.

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