Twenty prominent Iranian actors and filmmakers in the diaspora have issued a statement in support of their detained and persecuted colleagues in Iran.

The Committee for the Defence of Detained Filmmakers in Iran reports that the statement condemns the plight of the recently jailed documentary filmmakers. They write: “Reports indicate that the imprisoned filmmakers are being held under harsh conditions in order to make them confess to collaboration with Western countries such as Britain and France.” The statement says people who have visited the detained filmmakers can see from their appearance that they are under grave pressure.

Iranian authorities recently arrested six documentary makers in Iran, accusing them of collaboration with the Persian BBC, which the authorities call a front for British conspiracies against Iran.

Three of the filmmakers have been released but three remain in custody.

The statement also notes the sentencing of Iranian actress and filmmaker Marzieh Vafamehr to one year in jail and 90 lashes, and another actor, Ramin Parchami who has been sentenced to one year’s imprisonment, all for their film activities.

The confirmed sentences of six years for Jafar Panahi and one year for Mahammad Rasoulof are also cited as examples of the Iranian government acting against the film community.

They write: “Scores of filmmakers and actors have been summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence and subjected to interrogations and threats.

The signatories urge foreign affairs and culture ministers around the world, as well all film and cultural centres and festivals, to condemn the arrest of the Iranian filmmakers and to call for their immediate release.

They also call for international sanctions against all Iranian film and television authorities until the detained filmmakers are released.

The signatories include veteran actors Behrouz Vosoughi and Shohreh Aghdashloo as well as filmmakers such as Mohsen Makhmalbof, Shirn Neshat and Reza Allamehzadeh.