Award winning filmmaker Jafar Panahi was last night sentenced to six years' imprisonment in his native Iran, where all his films are banned. He has also been forbidden from making films or writing scripts for 20 years; he will not be allowed to speak to journalists or to travel abroad. As the international film community reacted in shock, Glasgow decided to rededicate its February Short Film Festival in his honour.
Mr Panahi has been convicted of "assembly and colluding with the intention to commit crimes against the country’s national security and propaganda against the Islamic Republic", in reference to a documentary which he never completed. His wife, Tahereh Saeedi, has denied rumours that its subject was the government crackdowns which took place in the aftermath of the 2009 elections. Particular concern has been expressed because he has suffered ongoing health problems and claims to have been mistreated in prison.
Director Mohammad Rasoulof, who recently worked with Panahi, has also been given a six year sentence on related charges.
Fans in the West may know Panahi best for his popular and charming film The White Balloon, and for the more recent documentary Offside, which looked at the experiences of young female football fans in Tehran. Among other things, he has been a strong an persistent advocate of women's rights.
"When a film-maker does not make films it is as if he is jailed. Even when he is freed from the small jail, he finds himself wandering in a larger jail," said Panahi, commenting on his past decision to press ahead with his work despite knowing that arrest was a possibility. His lawyer, Farideh Gheirat, has registered intent to appeal.