Iran film director Panahi freed on bail: report

Tue May 25, 2010 1:20pm EDT
 
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TEHRAN (Reuters) - Jailed Iranian film director Jafar Panahi, who has been on hunger strike for more than a week, was released on bail of 2 billion rials (about $200,000) Tuesday, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Panahi, winner of many international awards and a supporter of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi in last year's disputed presidential election, was arrested in March along with his wife and daughter. His family was later freed.

He won the festival's Camera d'Or prize for his 1995 movie, "White Balloon" and senior French government ministers called on Iran this month to free him.

Despite his release, the office of Tehran's prosecutor said his case and the indictment against him would be submitted to the capital's Revolutionary Court, IRNA said, suggesting he may still face trial. It did not give further details.

French actress Juliette Binoche criticized Iran for imprisoning Panahi during her acceptance speech for the best actress award at the Cannes film festival Sunday, saying "his fault is to be an artist, to be independent."

Panahi, whose films often examine social issues faced by women in the conservative Islamic state, had been due to sit on the jury of the 2010 Cannes festival.

Panahi had said he would not end his hunger strike until he was allowed to have access to his lawyer, receive visits from his family and be unconditionally released until a court hearing was held. His family and lawyer visited him last week.

"We had a meeting with him Thursday along with the prosecutor and although his general health condition was good he looked physically weak," Saeedi said.

Iran's election in June last year plunged the Islamic state into months of political turmoil. The pro-reform opposition says it was rigged to secure the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but the authorities portrayed the huge protests that erupted after the vote as a foreign-backed bid to undermine the clerical establishment.

Thousands of opposition supporters were detained after the vote. Most of them have since been freed but more than 80 people have been jailed for up to 15 years. Two people put on trial after the election have been executed.

(Reporting by Ramin Mostafavi; writing by Fredrik Dahl; editing by Dominic Evans)