After French filmmakers, artists and intellectuals set up an internet rally in support of Jafar Panahi yesterday, Germany condemned the harsh sentence handed to the Iranian filmmaker and slammed his imprisonment as “scandalous” and “unacceptable.”
Markus Loening, head of Germany’s human rights policy said in a statement: “Sentencing Jafar Panahi to six years in jail is scandalous.”
He added: "It is simply unacceptable and all the more disconcerting given that Jafar Panahi’s films have offered many people in recent years an insight into Iranian society and therefore contributed considerably to intercultural dialogue."
In the meantime, Berlin Film Festival, which has invited Panahi to attend the festival as a member of the festival jury in February, issued a statement yesterday, condemning the “harsh sentences” given out by the Islamic Republic to Jafar Panahi and his colleague, Mohammad Rassulof.
Berlin Festival director, Dieter Kosslick said: “We are very concerned and filled with indignation over the conviction of Jafar Panahi. It is shocking that a renowned director is punished so severely for his artistic work."
Jafar Panahi was sentenced to six years in prison on Monday and also banned from filmmaking and travel abroad for 20 years.
Panahi, a vocal supporter of the protests against irregularities in the 2009 elections which returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power, was once briefly arrested in early days of the protests in summer of 2009. Later, he was arrested in March of 2010 along with his family and guests in the course of a raid at his home.
While all the people arrested that night at his home were gradually released, he was held until May and only released on a $200,000 bail after he went on a hunger strike.
Pro-government forces accuse him of planning to make a film about the turmoil that followed Ahmadinejad’s disputed victory in 2009.
After several delays, he got his trial in November during which he maintained that the charges against him are an offence against all of the Iranian cultural, artistic and filmmaking community.
Panahi is known for his socially critical films such as “The Circle” and “Offside” which have also won international awards in European film festivals.