Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi has been released from Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.
The news was confirmed by Panahi’s wife Tahereh Saeidi and her lawyers to local media and on social media.
Lawyer Saleh Nikbakht said: “Although I am happy about Mr. Panahi’s release, it must be said that his release should have taken place three months ago, following the acceptance of our objection to his previous court decision.”
The news has been greeted with joy by the global film community, which had been campaigning for months for Panahi’s release.
The filmmaker, a regular at A-list festivals including Cannes, Berlin and Venice, had been imprisoned even though his sentence had previously been declared void by the country’s Supreme Court. He had gone on hunger strike earlier this week.
The director was arrested in early July amid a crackdown on freedom of expression, after going to Evin prison to inquire about the whereabouts of filmmakers Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Al-Ahmad following their detention a few days previously.
It was announced a few days later that the Iranian authorities had decided to reactivate a six-year sentence originally meted out to Panahi in 2010 alongside a 20-year filmmaking and travel ban.
The charges and sentence were connected to his attendance at the funeral in 2009 of a student shot dead in the Green Revolution and his later attempt to shoot a feature set against the backdrop of the uprising.
The director of The White Balloon, The Circle and Taxi has not left Iran since the sentence and has been under house arrest on and off during this period.
Nikbakht had argued successfully at the Supreme Court in October that the six-year sentence had passed Iran’s 10-year statute of limitations period and was no longer applicable.
He was granted permission to apply for a retrial in a move that should have resulted in Panahi automatically being released on bail, but Iranian authorities had hindered the process of activating this.
The director said Iranian authorities had made repeated excuses as to why he was not being released.
Panahi’s detention preceded Iran’s “Women, Life, Freedom” uprising sparked by the killing of Mahsa Amini while in police custody September 16 for not wearing her hijab in accordance with Iran’s religion-based law.
Since then thousands of protestors have been arrested while the Islamic Republic government has attempted to quell the protests with force and has recently begun executing protestors.
At least four young men have been executed for their role in the demonstrations so far and another 100 people are reported to be on death row on protest-related charges.
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