Jafar Panahi, an Iranian director whose hunger strike and continued detention in Tehran’s Evin prison has been a focus of attention during this year’s Cannes Film Festival, may soon be released on bail, Agence France-Presse reports on Friday.
Mr. Panahi, who was arrested on March 1 for supposedly working on “an antiregime film,” has been on hunger strike since Sunday. His wife, Tahereh Saeedi, and his lawyer, Farideh Gheirat, told A.F.P. that when they visited the director at Evin on Thursday judiciary officials said that he could be released after a bail hearing on Saturday.
It is unclear if international efforts to draw attention to Mr. Panahi’s case have had any effect, but, as my colleague Manohla Dargis reported from Cannes on Thursday, Abbas Kiarostami, Iran’s most famous director, who went to the festival to screen a new film starring the French actress Juliette Binoche, began a news conference on Tuesday by speaking about his friend and colleague.
Mr. Kiarostami, who sent The Lede an open letter calling for Mr. Panahi’s release in March, said his detention was “intolerable.” He added, “When a filmmaker, an artist, is imprisoned, it is art as a whole that is attacked, and it is against this that we should react.” Sitting beside Mr. Kiarostami, Ms. Binoche began to weep as a journalist sobbed while asking another question about Iran.
In an interview with New York magazine, Ms. Binoche said:
The fact that he’s in prison now is overwhelming, and we’re trying to do our best here without doing too much so it doesn’t block a possible opening door, but at the same time it’s a very firm statement. No artist should be imprisoned in their own country. The country needs the artists and intellectuals in order to have a point of view. If it’s only the political view, then it’s impoverished and false … So we’re very much in pain. At the same time, the Cannes festival chose to take him as a symbolic jury member, and needed to, because I think it is so meaningful and important for the art, to fight for freedom and put light on the subject.
At the start of the festival, the organizers made a point of reserving an empty chair with Mr. Panahi’s name on it to indicate that the director, who won a prize at Cannes for his first film, “The White Balloon,” in 1995, and was invited to be on this year’s jury, had been prevented from attending.
Last Saturday, the French culture minister, Frédéric Mitterrand, read the festival a letter from Mr. Panahi, which he said had been smuggled out of Evin prison.
The next day, the director told his family he was taken from his cell for interrogation and accused of filming inside the prison, which he called “a sheer lie.”
On Tuesday, a French cultural Web site run by the philosopher and activist Bernard-Henri Lévy, posted what it said was another letter from Mr. Panahi explaining his treatment on Sunday and his decision to begin a hunger strike. Here is an English translation of the complete text of Mr. Panahi’s letter from the Web site La Règle du Jeu :
I hereby declare that I have been subject to ill treatment in Evin prison.
On Saturday May 15, 2010, prison guards suddenly entered our cell, No. 56. They took us away, my cell mates and I, made us strip and kept us in the cold for an hour and a half.
Sunday morning, they brought me to the interrogation room and accused me of having filmed the interior of my cell, which is completely untrue. Then they threatened to imprison my entire family at Evin and to mistreat my daughter in an unsafe prison in the city of Rejayi Shahr.
I have eaten and drunk nothing since Sunday morning, and I declare that if my wishes are not respected, I will continue to abstain from drinking and eating. I do not want to be a rat in a laboratory, victim of their sick games, threatened and psychologically tortured.
My wishes are :
– The possibility to contact and see my family, and the complete assurance that they are safe.
– The right to retain and communicate with an attorney, after 77 days of imprisonment.
– Unconditional liberty until the day of my judgment and the final verdict
– Finally, I swear upon what I believe in, the cinema : I will not cease my hunger strike until my wishes are satisfied.
My final wish is that my remains be returned to my family, so that they may bury me in the place they choose.
At a film festival in Montreal last year, Mr. Panahi made a point of wearing a green scarf in a show of solidarity with Iran’s opposition movement. Three weeks ago, a group of leading American filmmakers — including Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola — signed a petition asking Iran’s government to release him.