Award-winning dissident Iranian film-maker Jafar Panahi has been arrested, the third director to be detained in less than a week, the Mehr news agency said Monday.
“Jafar Panahi has been arrested today (Monday) when he went to the prosecutor’s office to follow up on the situation of another film-maker, Mohammad Rasoulof,” Mehr reported.
State news agency IRNA had reported late Friday that Rasoulof, also an award winning film-maker, had been arrested along with colleague Mostafa Aleahmad.
Panahi has won a slew of awards at international festivals, including the top prize in Berlin for “Taxi” in 2015, and best screenplay at Cannes for his film “Three Faces” in 2018.
But since being convicted of “propaganda against the system” in 2010, following his support for anti-government protests and a string of films that critiqued modern Iran, he has been barred from leaving the country to pick up any of these awards.
Rasoulof, 50, won the Golden Bear in Berlin in 2020 with his film “There Is No Evil” but was likewise unable to accept the award in person as he was barred from leaving Iran.
Rasoulof and Aleahmad were arrested over events relating to a deadly building collapse of the Metropol building in the city of Abadan, an event which sparked angry protests, official news agency IRNA said.
“In the midst of the heart-breaking incident in Abadan’s Metropol, (the filmmakers) were involved in inciting unrest and disrupting the psychological security of society,” IRNA said.
The 10-storey Metropol building, that was under construction in southwestern Khuzestan province, collapsed on May 23, killing 43 people.
It sparked demonstrations in solidarity with victims’ families.
Demonstrators demanded that “incompetent officials” responsible for the tragedy be prosecuted and punished, while many faced tear gas, warning shots and arrests by the police.
A group of Iranian filmmakers led by Rasoulof published an open letter calling on the security forces to “lay down their arms” in the face of outrage over the “corruption, theft, inefficiency and repression” surrounding the Abadan collapse.
Organisers of the Berlin film festival on Saturday protested against the arrests of Rasoulof and Aleahmad and called for their release.
Rasoulof’s passport had been confiscated after his 2017 film “A Man of Integrity” premiered at Cannes, where it won the top prize in the Un Certain Regard section of the festival.